Press Release

IACHR regrets denied entry into Venezuela and announces that will meet with victims and organizations on the Colombian border

February 4, 2020

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Washington, D.C./Panama - The IACHR profoundly regrets the decision to prevent its delegation from entering Venezuela today. The IACHR delegation had planned to observe the human rights situation in the country on the ground. It also announced that it would meet with victims of human rights violations and their relatives; and with civil society organizations on the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

In July 2019, the IACHR announced an on-site visit to Venezuela, intended to take place from February 4th to the 8th, to meet with groups of victims of human rights violations, beneficiaries of precautionary measures, representatives of civil society, social movements, students, academics, and other relevant actors. The visit was organized in acceptance of the invitation made by the Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) appointed by the Venezuelan National Assembly, recognized by the General Assembly of the OAS, in view of the persistent and wide-ranging call that Venezuelan civil society has made to the IACHR over the years, with victims at the center of its concerns.

The Commission informs the international community that, despite the above invitation, the delegation composed of the President of the IACHR and Rapporteur for Venezuela, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño; the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão; the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza; and specialists from the Executive Secretariat, was banned from boarding the flight from Panama City to Caracas, according to notification received by the airline.

The Commission strongly rejects such treatment and highlights that it is typical of authoritarian regimes not to allow international scrutiny and observance of a human rights situation, which is especially detrimental to the victims of human rights violations and hinders the valuable work carried out by civil society organizations.

The IACHR takes this opportunity to reaffirm the validity of its mandate and jurisdiction over Venezuela. In this regard, the denial of entry into the country hinders the international human rights obligations assumed by Venezuela, and prevents the fulfilment of the Inter-American Commission's competencies set forth in Article 106 of the OAS Charter and 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission's primary function is to promote the observance and defense of human rights of the peoples of the Americas. To that end, on-site visits enable the Commission, among other things, to carry out its functions as an advisory body to the OAS on human rights. The Commission also recalls that the Venezuelan State is a party to other international instruments that grant mandates to the organization, including the "Belém do Pará" Convention; the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture; and the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons.

Additionally, the IACHR has closely followed the situation in Venezuela and corroborated the persistence of a very serious and significant deterioration in the enjoyment of human rights. Also, the Commission considers that the indefinite and unrestricted extension of the state of emergency; the suspension of the powers of the democratically elected National Assembly; the weakness of the judiciary that affects its independence; the overreaching of the functions of the National Constituent Assembly; the absence of guarantees for free elections; and, in general, the lack of subordination of the State's institutions to civil authorities are evidence of the lack of rule of law.

Accordingly, the IACHR calls on Venezuela to resume a firm commitment to human rights and adopt concrete measures to overcome the severe institutional, economic, and humanitarian crisis in which the country is immersed.

Despite what happened today, the Commission has decided to follow up on its objective of meeting with the victims, to which end it will immediately travel to the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The IACHR extends special thanks to the Government of Colombia, which offered the necessary conditions to allow the delegation to visit the city of Cucuta, Norte de Santander, which will allow the IACHR to meet, document, and gather testimonies from victims and family members regarding the serious human rights violations in Venezuela.

Finally, the IACHR offers civil society its support to overcome that country’s institutional crisis through its Special Follow-up Mechanism for Venezuela (MESEVE) and reaffirms that it will maintain an unwavering commitment to the victims of human rights violations there.

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. 020/20