Venezuela: IACHR urges State not to approve bill limiting the right to association and participation

January 26, 2024

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) call on the State of Venezuela to refrain from approving a bill that would have the effect of limiting the right of association, citizen participation in matters of public interest, and the defense of human rights.

According to public information, last January 12, 2024, the National Assembly resumed the discussion of the draft "Law for the control, regularization, performance and financing of non-governmental and related organizations", after it was approved in a first debate in January 2023.

Previously, the Commission expressed its concern about this bill since it arbitrarily limits the activities that can be carried out by non-profit organizations and grants state authorities the power to unilaterally dissolve those that participate, according to their criteria, in political activities or activities that threaten national stability and the institutions of the Republic.

Legislation of the kind proposed limits the work carried out by civil society organizations, restricts and civic space so necessary for the promotion and protection of rule of law and democracy. In this sense, in 2023, the IACHR rejected the arbitrary detention of trade unionists; in 2022 it urged the State not to approve the draft "International Cooperation Law", while in 2021 it expressed its rejection of "Administrative Ruling No. 001-2021".

The IACHR and RELE note with concern that during the two discussions of this project, pro-government deputies pointed to civil society organizations as "enemies", "destabilizers", "traitors of the homeland" and "party facades", among other stigmatizing adjectives. These types of statements are evidence of the climate of hostility against individuals and organizations that defend human rights or practice journalism in Venezuela.

The Commission and RELE again urge Venezuela to refrain from adopting any legislation or regulations that arbitrarily limit the right of association, freedom of expression and participation in matters of public interest. They also stress the importance of the work of human rights defenders in the construction of a solid and lasting democratic society.

The Commission and RELE remain available for dialogue and technical cooperation with the State in furtherance of the promotion and protection of human rights.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.

The IACHR is a principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 022/24

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