N° 13/07




            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regrets that Venezuela has not allowed and subsequently has placed conditions on the visit of Commissioner Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, in his role as Rapporteur for that country. The last visit to Venezuela was in May 2002 and for the last three years the Commission has requested, both verbally and in writing, the consent of the State for a visit without success.  This has the effect of interfering with the verification of the situation of human rights in the country and with the promotion of a dialogue with State authorities and different sectors of the Venezuelan civil society.


The Commission welcomes the significant and pacific participation of the Venezuelan citizenship in the past presidential elections of December 3, 2006. The Commission recognizes and values the achievements and the continuity of projects related to the advancement of and respect for economic, social and cultural rights on the part of the Government aimed at improving the conditions of vast sectors of the Venezuelan population. The priority given to these measures is fundamental to guarantee a worthy life to the population and it constitutes an important base for the maintenance of democratic stability.


Nonetheless, in the last years the Commission has observed a gradual deterioration of the constitutional order that has compromised the full enjoyment of human rights. The IACHR takes the opportunity to highlight some aspects of the Venezuelan reality that have been object of concern: charges of the lack of independence of state actors and the increasing concentration of power in the Executive; restrictions on freedom of expression; extreme levels of polarization of the Venezuelan society and the consistent difficulty of carrying out a constructive and tolerant dialogue between the Government and diverse sectors of the civil society; the existence of a hostile ambience for the free exercise of political participation in dissent and the activity of monitoring of human rights organizations and impunity in cases related to human rights violations.


With regard to judicial power, the Commission has given special attention to the fulfillment of the guarantees of impartiality and independence of administrators of justice and to the situation of impunity for violations of human rights. In its last Annual Reports the Commission expressed concern for the existence of a high percentage of judges and prosecutors with provisional or temporal status. Although by 2006, 80% of the judges were confirmed, the Commission received information indicating that such confirmations were not carried out in strict adherence to the applicable constitutional and legal procedures.


Freedom of expression is also an issue of special concern. Although in Venezuela wide discussion and critique exists across the mass media towards the governmental policies, in some cases this legitimate activity results in acts of intimidation or indirect pressures that contradict the exercise of freedom of expression in a democratic society. Particular attention has been focused within the last year on information received to the effect that the highest authorities of the government have publicly announced a review of mass media licenses, possibly on the basis of criteria that might violate the right to freedom of expression.


The States prerogative to administer the radio-electric spectrum, to previously establish the terms of duration of concessions and to decide on their renewal at the end of those periods, must be practiced taking into account the State’s international obligations. These include guaranteeing the right to express ideas and thoughts of any nature by a diversity of mass media without the adoption of direct or indirect restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression as described in Principle 13 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression. In light of these reasons, the IACHR believes that in competitions for or in the direct awarding of licenses of the radio-electrical spectrum States must promote, under the principle of equality of opportunities, open, independent and transparent procedures ruled by clear, objective and reasonable criteria that avoid any political discrimination due to the editorial line of a communications medium.


Additionally, in the last few years the Commission has continued to receive worrisome information regarding the existence of acts of harassment, intimidation and professional discredit against human rights defenders. The IACHR expresses its grave concern for the impact that these acts and statements could have on the security of human rights defenders and on their monitoring capability. Moreover, the IACHR has received information about the concern of human rights defenders about some aspects of a Bill on international cooperation that could be in contradiction with the international standards of protection of human rights.


Finally, the Commission wishes to highlight the importance that the visits of the Commission have for deepening the links of cooperation among governments and the societies and to comply with its mandate. The visits allow the evaluation of the conditions of human rights in a country, verify specific situations of certain rights, and promote the value of human rights in general. These visits have contributed to promoting investigations or to following up cases, friendly settlements and precautionary measures in the Inter-American System as part of its supervisory role and its cooperation with the Member States. Therefore, the Commission considers that the visits to Venezuela could significantly contribute to the strengthening and protection of human rights in the context of a democratic society. By virtue of the foregoing, the Commission reiterates its availability in order to enable a constructive dialogue with the Venezuelan State, contributing to the search for policies and practices for the achievement of the full respect of human rights.


Washington D.C., March 9, 2007