Venezuela begins pullout from American Convention on Human Rights

President Hugo Chávez's administration informed the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday, Sept. 11, that Venezuela will begin the formal process of leaving the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the IACHR Court, according to the website El Mundo.

Venezuela submitted a writ to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights, the first step in taking the country out of the jurisdiction of the IACHR Court, based in San José, Costa Rica, according to the newspaper El Universal. Venezuela will also pullout from the IACHR, reported Fox News Latino.

The Inter-American Court is the highest judicial authority in the hemisphere in matters regarding human rights, according to the NGO Public Space. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza lamented the decision and hoped Venezuela would reconsider, according to Fox News Latino.

Venezuelan NGOs condemned the denouncement against the Convention. Director for the freedom of expression group Public Space Carlos Correa considered Venezuela's withdrawal from the IACHR unconstitutional and said it would increase the helplessness of victims whose rights had been violated in the country, according to El Confidencial.

Since Chávez's rise to the presidency, Venezuela's complaints to the court have become routine, according to the website Opera Mundi. Chávez alleges that the IACHR Court's decisions are biased and political. Chávez announced in July his intentions to withdraw from the Court after it sided with Raul Díaz, a suspect in the 2003 Spanish embassy and Colombian consulate bombings in the capital, Caracas, reported El Paso Times.

Venezuela has threatened to leave the human rights pact several times, having called it an "instrument of the U.S. government for damaging leftist governments,” and, along with Ecuador, presenting controversial reforms to the system. Human rights groups claimed the reforms would weaken the Inter-American Commission and "could curtail free expression and press throughout the hemisphere and put journalists and others at greater risk," according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The IACHR has been a last resort for attacked or censored journalists, especially in countries where the fairness of the judiciary is in doubt. In a hearing before the IACHR in March 2012, journalistic organizations named 2011 one of the worst years for the press in Venezuela, citing the increase in attacks on reporters and the media.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.