Menu Close

Venezuela must enter the trail of cooperation

Session of the Human Rights Council (Reuters)

Venezuela’s lack of cooperation with the international human rights system is a constant that dates back long before the installation on the ground of the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Delayed reports and not sent to treaty bodies, fundamental treaties that have not been ratified, several special procedures that have not entered the country, defied treaty body decisions, and a universe of accumulated recommendations that have not been implemented. A milestone in this lack of cooperation, contrary to what was attempted to be presented, was setting up the OHCHR presence in the country secretly, making it an inscrutable matter for both Venezuelan society and the international community[1].

The lack of cooperation took on more grave forms over time. From public disqualifications to the OHCHR reports within the Human Rights Council (HRC), through direct threats to the continuity of its presence on the ground, to the point of being used, with the complicity of former Commissioner Bachelet, as an instrument of distraction and propaganda towards the countries of the world and of blackmail against the rest of the mechanisms of the HRC, mainly against the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM)[2].

As more reports and public statements from various human rights mechanisms were added, the Venezuelan government not only regressed further on the matter, which is observed in the evaluations of democratic institutionality, complex humanitarian emergency, civic space and international cooperation, derived from the recent UPR[3], but at the same time intensified its attacks against the FFM and the OACNUDH. The aggression of the Maduro government finally degenerated into diplomatic bullying while exercising its role during the HRC session against the countries that promoted or voted in favor of the renewal of the mandate of the FFM[4], extending to consider the suspension of the OHCHR’s presence in the country and the negotiating table in Mexico, if this happened[5].

The lack of cooperation cost the Venezuelan government the renewal of the FFM and its defeat as a candidate for re-election in the HRC and firm calls from the HRC to cease repression, allow authentic elections, cooperate with special procedures, among others. A clear and updated message has emerged from the most important organization for the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide: Venezuela continues to be a State that systematically violates the human rights of its population and faces serious signs of crimes against humanity. These facts configure a new international reality for Venezuela that forces us to discuss the stage that is going through.

In this emerging reality, some inevitable questions are what is next? and above all, how to guarantee that international supervision over Venezuela is consistent, accurate and effective according to the development of events? This is where the name Volker Turk appears. The new High Commissioner for Human Rights is called upon to play a fundamental role in encouraging Venezuela to truly cooperate with the UN rights system, in compliance with what the HRC and its mechanisms have repeatedly requested.

To achieve this cooperation objective, there are strategic actions for immediate compliance by the High Commissioner. First, he must remove the confidential nature of the letter of understanding that renews the presence of the OHCHR in the country, ensuring a transparent, participatory and guaranteeing process for monitoring human rights on the ground. Second, he must raise the rank of the officials deployed in the country. Third, he must provide institutional and and financial support to the work of the FFM. Fourth, he must create, in consultation with civil society and interested actors, objective indicators based on the set of past recommendations that allow evaluating the will, as well as possible progress and setbacks, of the government in complying with its international obligations. Fifth, he must ensure and exercise a balanced mandate of technical assistance and protection[6].

Civil society should rethink its advocacy in front of this international reality and adjust its responsibilities to encourage the Venezuelan State to enter the trail of cooperation; and democratic countries should join this strategy. Having a new High Commissioner and a favorable forces correlation –at least for now- in the HRC, should be the premises on which to build an agenda for cooperation.