Venezuela Says Inter-American Human Rights Commission Lacks Objectivity

By: Chris Carlson -

Merida, Venezuela, March 14, 2007 (— Venezuela’s representative to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) of the Organization of American States (OAS) accused the commission of being “biased” because it only takes positions of opposition groups into account. The representative, Germán Saltrón, made the remarks at a IAHRC meeting last week, at which Venezuela’s human rights situation was discussed.

At the request of the Venezuelan government, the IAHRC met for three sessions at its headquarters in Washington to evaluate the human rights situation in the South American nation. The CIDH has frequently criticized the situation in Venezuela which they consider to stem from the policies of the government. But the Venezuelan government has reiterated on several occasions the biased nature of the inter-American panel.

The Commission considers that there exists a "gradual deterioration of the state of law that has compromised the full respect for human rights," and that there is a hostile environment for dissident political participation, and restrictions on freedom of expression. In the three sessions, testimony was heard from different NGOs and other organizations, along with a delegation from the Venezuelan government. Groups like Public Space, and the Andres Bello Catholic University Center for Human Rights made accusations about the "situation of the right of free expression in Venezuela."

In response, the delegation from the Venezuelan government presented the legal motives that the government has to not renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). The delegation maintained that there was no political motive, but rather that the decision was made in conformity of the law. They stressed that they were not closing the Radio Caracas television station, but rather they would not renew their concession that expires in May.

The Venezuelan delegation also accused the CIDH of "distorting" information with their statements that President Chávez is not willing to permit the commission members to visit the country to observe the situation. Venezuelan representative Germán Saltrón said that the Chávez government has always been open to the scrutiny of the OAS Commission. But he reiterated that the Venezuelan government questions the objectivity of the organism.

"The Commission makes a report every year about supposed human rights violations and we always point out the lack of objectivity of the Commission," said Saltrón in an interview with TeleSur.

"Since Hugo Chávez has been the president of the Republic, the CIDH has had a fixation regarding accusations presented against Venezuela by NGOs that are opposed to the government and the commission always accepts their arguments based on reports from the press, radio, and television, knowing that the media has always been adverse to the government," added Saltrón.

Saltrón also criticized the fact that the organization did not take any measures in favor of the president when he was detained for 48 hours by the opposition during the brief coup on April 11th, 2002. The CIDH also did not make any criticisms about the private media in Venezuela that played a decisive role in the brief overthrow of the constitutional government.

"We have repeatedly pointed out that after the April 11th, 2002 coup, the commission had personal information from government ministers that were being pursued during the coup, and they requested that measures be taken to guarantee their lives and these accusations were not processed," stressed Saltrón.

"Venezuela has always answered the observations of the Inter-American Commission, but the commission never hears the observations that Venezuela makes," he added. "There is no objectivity in the evaluation of the accusations. It is a body that is attached to the Organization of American States, and the interests of the United States always show through in the decisions that they make."