Venezuela: IACHR Condemns Political Disqualifications of Opposition Leaders

January 31, 2024

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) strongly condemns the administrative disqualifications imposed on opposition members and denounces such actions as characteristic of authoritarian regimes. In this regard, it urges the State to take measures aimed at rebuilding democracy and ensuring political participation from all sectors.

On January 26, the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) announced a series of decisions to review the disqualifications imposed by the Comptroller General of the Nation against opposition leaders. In these rulings, the TSJ opted to temporarily lift the disqualifications of Leocenis García, Richard Mardo, Pablo Pérez, Zulay Medina, Daniel Ceballos, and Rosa Brandonisio de Scarano. However, it maintained the prohibition against Henrique Capriles and María Corina Machado—who won the presidential primaries of the opposition.

These judicial decisions are likely to contribute to an environment of persecution that deter citizen involvement in issues of public concern. This campaign encompasses the arbitrary detention of opposition leaders and union members, legislative initiatives that curtail the operations of civic organizations, stigmatizing remarks by high-ranking government officials, and intimidating actions.

The removal of recognized opposition leaders from the electoral race confirms that the Venezuelan justice system lacks guarantees of independence and impartiality, playing a significant role in repressing government opponents. Furthermore, it nullifies the possibility of holding free, fair, and competitive presidential elections in 2024.

The IACHR reiterates that, in line with the State's international obligations, no administrative body can restrict political rights to elect and be elected through disqualification or dismissal sanctions. According to inter-American standards, aiming to consolidate and protect a democratic system that respects human rights, such sanctions should only be imposed through a conviction by a judge within the framework of a criminal process.

In a democratic state, it is essential to guarantee political participation under equal conditions. In the Venezuelan case, in particular, the lifting of administrative disqualifications and the cessation of any acts discouraging citizen participation in public interest matters are crucial. Finally, the IACHR calls for the urgent adoption of measures to restore the separation and independence of the judicial system and other branches of the government. Only through this approach can democracy and trust in public institutions be rebuilt.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up 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.

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