Nº 21/02





The President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Dr. Juan E. Méndez, formally presented the IACHR’s 2001 Annual Report to the OAS Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, announcing at the same time that the full Commission will make an in loco visit to Venezuela from May 6 to 10 this year. He also recalled that the recent OAS Special Assembly expressed satisfaction with the fact that the Commission had accepted the invitation to visit Venezuela extended by President Hugo Chávez in September of 1999. 

During the presentation, Dr. Méndez once again stated that the Commission welcomed the restoration of constitutional order and of the democratically elected government of President Chávez. He also recalled that at the time of the attempted coup, the Commission responded immediately with a public statement deploring the removal from office of the highest officials of the various branches of government and warning that such acts would constitute an interruption of the constitutional order as contemplated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. 

With respect to the IACHR’s position on the recent events in Venezuela, Dr. Méndez flatly rejected the notion that the Commission had acted “ambiguously.” The President of the IACHR noted that the communiqué sent by the Executive Secretary on April 13, 2002 to José Rodríguez Iturbe, the designated Foreign Minister of the de facto government, asking for information on the detention and whereabouts of President Hugo Chávez and requesting precautionary measures related to the liberty and personal safety of and judicial guarantees for Mr. Tarek William Saab, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly, could in no way be construed as recognition of the de facto regime. “In accordance with its own procedures and with those of other international human rights bodies, on April 13, 2002 the Commission addressed those who were wielding de facto power in Venezuela because the exercise of power, obtained through usurpation or by other means, entails the obligation to respect and guarantee all human rights,” explained Dr. Méndez. He added, “Many times in the past the Commission has communicated with de facto governments in various parts of the region, while simultaneously strongly denouncing any interruption of the institutional order.” He concluded by pointing out that “the powers conferred on the IACHR through conventions or by its Statutes do not include recognition of governments; our job is to safeguard the human rights of individuals and that is what we were doing in this case.”           

Dr. Méndez thought it positive that Mr. Tarek William Saab publicly acknowledged the Commission’s actions to extend him protection, measures taken in accordance with its mandate. 

In regard to the role of the media, the President of the Commission indicated that the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression had communicated to him concern for “the lack of information available to Venezuelans during the days of institutional crisis, a time when rapid access to information is indispensable to the defense of democracy.” He went on to say that the Office of the Special Rapporteur and the Commission both hope that the Venezuelan media will reflect upon the role they played during this time period. 

Lastly, Dr. Méndez announced that “The IACHR will keep a close watch on further developments in the human rights situation in Venezuela.” He concluded his remarks by noting that next week’s visit to Venezuela represents “an opportunity for the Commission to advance the dialogue begun with authorities and civil society, and thus contribute to the protection and defense of human rights within a framework of democracy and institutional legality.”




Washington, D.C., May 1, 2002