Press Release

IACHR Flags Obstacles for Fair Parliamentary Elections in Venezuela

November 11, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about the lack of adequate conditions to hold fair parliamentary elections in Venezuela, where the National Electoral Council (CNE, by its Spanish acronym) has scheduled a legislative election for December 6, 2020. The Commission urges the State to respect the full, effective exercise of human rights and democratic principles and to hold, within a reasonable timeframe, transparent, impartial, plural, and competitive elections that are subject to international monitoring.

The IACHR notes that the General Assembly of the Organization of American States passed on October 21, 2020 a resolution concerning the lack of minimum democratic safeguards to ensure a free, fair, and transparent election in Venezuela. The IACHR further notes that the European Union has said, with reference to the election scheduled for December 6 in Venezuela, that “the current conditions would not guarantee a free, fair, and democratic election process.” The European Union recommended that the election be postponed and declined to send an observer mission.

The Commission stresses yet again that Venezuela is going through a profound crisis and that this crisis needs to be overcome peacefully, respecting the rule of law and the country’s Constitution. Holding periodic elections is crucial to overcome this crisis. However, the IACHR notes that some issues remain that erode confidence in the country’s elections, and that these issues need to be addressed.

The Commission has been informed of cases of harassment against opposition-party facilities. For example, on August 9, 2020, two facilities run by the Democratic Action party were attacked by armed individuals who shot pellet guns and threw small explosive devices at them. So far, the IACHR has not been informed of any progress in investigations to establish what happened and to try the people responsible for these attacks.

The IACHR has also been informed of a series of decisions made by the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ, by its Spanish acronym) that reject constitutional mandates of the National Assembly leadership, undermine the internal democratic operations of political parties, and fuel mistrust in the rules of the democratic game. According to Venezuela’s Constitution, it is the National Assembly that should appoint the leadership of the CNE. However, in July 2020, the TSJ claimed that power and appointed members of the CNE leadership, including two of the TSJ’s own magistrates.

In June 2020, the TSJ further made decisions to take over the administration of several political parties and to appoint members of their boards. The Commission has been told that the boards of political parties have a crucial say concerning the overall direction taken by a political organization, including its nomination system and its lists of candidates for each election. This is why appointing the board should be an internal process within each political party. So far, the TSJ has appointed the boards of the political parties Democratic Action, Justice First, Popular Will, Republican Movement, Tupamaro, Positive Citizen Action, and Nuvipa.

Finally, the IACHR notes that, in the last parliamentary election, the TSJ suspended the powers of the National Assembly after the opposition obtained a majority of the seats, with the argument that the legislature was in contempt. At the time, the Commission rejected this decision and noted that they amount to a misappropriation of the powers of the legislative branch of government and effectively disregard the popular vote that elected members of the National Assembly. No normative grounds have been given to date that justify the existence of such contempt, establish its scope, or explain how it could be overcome. For the sake of legal certainty and the separation of powers, the Commission calls on the State to prevent these sorts of allegations, that further injure Venezuela’s democratic institutions.

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

No. 269/20