International Law

Venezuela Abandons the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

According to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's allies, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights interferes with national sovereignty by taking cases that have not been fully resolved in domestic courts. These critics contend that the human rights court is biased against leftist governments.

Having previously threatened to leave the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, presumably because of this alleged bias, President Chavez has now made the decision that his country will withdraw from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  Chavez is irked that the court has determined Venezuela violated the rights of one of its citizens who escaped the country after being convicted for bombings. The man proclaims he is innocent. Conversely, the Chavez regime contends the court's decision supports terrorism.

Regardless of the facts leading up to the dispute, the decision by the Venezuelan government to withdraw from the court does not bode well for human rights. On the other hand, participation in the court will no longer be used by Venezuela as a façade for pretending the regime supports individual human rights and the impartial application of the rule of law.

It is noteworthy that at the same time Venezuela moves to isolate itself, Chavez's mentors within Cuba's Castro regime are making public overtures to enter into bilateral discussions with the United States on issues that include human rights. Regardless of the financial and other motives driving this new alleged Cuban openness, there is an opportunity here for the United States to promote human rights within Cuba while at the same time indirectly applying pressure on the Chavez regime.

As for Venezuela's allies who believe human rights are being used improperly as a cudgel to interfere with leftist governments, it should be noted that the real issue is totalitarianism rather than abstract Marxist ideology. Whether a government is run by left-wing or right-wing despots, the common theme is the despotism and tyranny that tramples individual human rights through misapplication of the rule of law on behalf of the state and its cronies, and not necessarily either political ideology.

Both the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights should continue their good work regardless of the threats and actions of President Chavez's regime. To do otherwise would be to become complicit in the human rights abuses that occur within Venezuela under the guise of the rule of law.

Recommended Reading

Venezuela to withdraw from regional human rights court, BBC News (July 25, 2012)

Hugo Chavez says Venezuela will pull out of regional human rights court, condemns decision, Washington Post (July 24, 2012)

Chavez: Venezuela to Pull out of Rights Court, ABC News (July 25, 2012)

Raul Castro: Cuba willing to sit down with US, Miami Herald (July 26, 2012)

Raúl Castro Says Cuba Is An Island Seeking Friendship, Even With U.S., NPR (July 26, 2012)