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HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION RELEASES REPORT ON VENEZUELA

Press release

Washington D.C., March 18, 2004 - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today released its Report on the Human Rights Situation in Venezuela, which examines such issues as the administration of justice, the role of the armed forces and police, the state of freedom of expression and the consequences of political polarization.

The situation in Venezuela demonstrates “a clear weakness in the fundamental Apillars that must support the rule of law in a democratic system, consistent with the American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments,” the report states.

The seven-chapter document, which is available on the Web (www.cidh.org), is based on information the Commission collected before, during and after a visit to Venezuela in May 2002, following the coup d’etat of April 11 and the reinstatement of President Hugo Chávez on April 14. The report covers events up to October 2003.

The Commission sent the draft report to the Venezuelan government in November 2003, requesting its comments and observations, but these have yet to be received.

The report points to several positive aspects of Venezuela’s Constitution, including a provision that gives constitutional rank to human rights treaties; expanded legal protections for personal safety and integrity; special provisions related to human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples and social, economic and cultural rights; and the creation of new institutions to protect human rights.

However, it notes a number of “worrisome signs of institutional weakness,” including the failure to give full application to the new Constitution, the perception that the branches of government lack independence and the growing concentration of power in the executive branch. The report also expresses concern about the impunity in which certain armed civilian groups and “para-police” units operate, the constant attacks on journalists and the media, and the tendency to militarize the public administration through the increasingly prominent role of the armed forces.

The Commission visited Venezuela at the request of President Chávez, who during a 1999 trip to Washington became the first head of state to personally visit the IACHR headquarters at the Organization of American States (OAS). The Commission’s on-site visit was scheduled immediately following the political crisis of April 2002.



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