Venezuela gov't takes a page from Videla's book in its stance toward IACHR
The Argentine dictator also accused the IACHR of breaching his country's sovereignty
"Enough is enough! (...) Venezuela is an independent country." Claiming sovereignty and self-determination, President Hugo Chávez justified his April 30 decision to withdraw from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Hours later, Foreign Affairs Minister Nicolás Maduro added: "Venezuela has moral and legal arguments to defend its sovereignty. They have tried to impose their stance by telling us that the National Assembly must legislate, but they fail to acknowledge our internal laws. They are bent on becoming some kind of supra-national tribunal capable of reviewing the decisions of our courts. Imagine the chaos that would ensue in any republic if the IACHR, usurping power, would tell the courts of a country what decisions may or may not be legal."
Nevertheless, the Venezuelan government s position lacks legal grounds, at least under article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Laws of Treaties, which establishes that no country having entered into an international treaty may "invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty."
It is not the first time that a member of the Organization of American State (OAS) has resorted to this argument, however.
In 1980, the Argentine military regime accused the IACHR of "meddling" in its "internal affairs" and looked into the possibility of withdrawing from this organization, after the latter published a report claiming that "through the actions of or failure to act by Argentina s public authorities and agents, numerous and severe Human Rights violations took place from 1975 to 1979."
A document prepared by the Junta led by General Jorge Rafael Videla stated: "The government expresses its profound displeasure for the excesses incurred in the report and for not meeting minimum standards of impartiality and objectivity." A copy of this statement held by the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta was reviewed by El Universal.
In that one-page letter, the Argentine military regime, which history will always remember for its Death Flights in which victims were thrown alive off helicopters overflying the La Plata River, expressed its "concern that the report interferes with matters of the internal jurisdiction of the State" and warned that "it does not dismiss the option of adopting measures aimed at decreasing the activities of the OAS within the country in the near future."
That report was the result of a visit to Argentina by the organization a year earlier. During that two-week visit, the IACHR collected information and looked into complaints about arbitrary detention, torture and forced disappearance of people taking place after the coup d état to overthrow Isabel Martínez de Perón in 1975.
The Supreme Tribunal upheld a decision by Fujimori
Nearly four years prior to President Chavez s announcement of his decision to remove Venezuela from the Inter-American system, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) had urged the government to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights, which would for practical purposes spell the country s exit from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court but not from that of the Commission.
The Constitutional Court made that request after finding the decision to reinstate three judges of the First Court in Administrative and Contentious Matters, who had been dismissed in 2003, "unenforceable."
In that ruling, the Supreme Tribunal quoted a decision by Peru s Plenary Court of the Supreme Council of Military Justice in 1999, nearly at the end of Alberto Fujimori s tenure (1990-2000). That decision held that applying a certain IACHR resolution would "deeply endanger the internal security of the republic" as it would collide with that country s Constitution.
Fernando Fernández, a renowned human rights scholar, finds the president s reasoning "outdated" and believes it is part of a "XVII Century interpretation of sovereignty that conjures absolutism."
Warning that the presidential announcement would "bludgeon articles 19 and 23 of the Constitution, which set forth the progressive nature of rights and confer Constitutional status upon Human Rights treaties and conventions," the expert went on to claim that "leaving the Inter-American system would be worse than eliminating the jurisdiction for protection of Children and Adolescents as the organization itself protects all individuals regardless of age."
Fernández advises the State to evaluate the effectiveness of the team representing Venezuelan before both the Commission and the Court to determine whether its members have responded appropriately to claims filed against the nation.
A similar suggestion was made by Carlos Armando Figueredo, a human rights lecturer at the Central University of Venezuela, who was not surprised that the Venezuelan government, branding itself as a Socialist State, would resort to the same reasoning as Fascist regimes, such as Argentina s last military dictatorship.
"It so happens that Communism and Fascism bear great resemblance when it comes to human rights," he concluded.
Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
Luis Jiménez Alfaro seems to have hidden under the rocks. The last time he was seen was on April 2006 walking calmly around Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetía, located nearby Caracas. At that time, more than five tons of cocaine arrived in Mexico in an airplane which took off from Venezuela, and his name featured as a missing piece of the puzzle of one of the most massive drug shipments that has been witnessed in the Western Hemisphere.