(Washington, DC) – The Organization of American States should invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter to press Venezuela to restore judicial independence and the protection of fundamental rights, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.
Under the charter, the OAS secretary general or any other member country can convoke a Permanent Council meeting to address situations where there has been an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state.” This application of the charter does not require consent from the government of the country whose democracy has been impaired.
On May 5, 2016, the Venezuelan foreign affairs minister, Delcy Rodríguez, said in a meeting at the OAS Permanent Council that the government rejected the OAS application of the charter, contending that it would violate Venezuela’s sovereignty and interfere with its internal affairs.
“The OAS should hold Venezuela accountable for its flagrant disregard of judicial independence, a core element of the Democratic Charter that is essential to protect fundamental rights,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “If the OAS really needed to ask offending governments for their permission before doing anything, it would completely defeat the purpose of the charter. Fortunately, for situations as bad as Venezuela’s, the charter doesn’t include such an absurd requirement.”