Category Archives: Inter-American System

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s Controversial Election Prompts Violence, International Reactions

Venezuelan protesters demonstrating in May 2017
Credit: Jamez via Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemned last week the recent violence and arrests that occurred in response to demonstrations around Venezuela’s election for a National Constituent Assembly – a powerful entity intended to replace the current legislature and rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. The election was reportedly tampered with by the Venezuelan government, prompting calls for an independent investigation into the legitimacy of the election, and the legislature now refuses to recognize the new assembly, which voted to remove Venezuela’s public prosecutor over the weekend. [New York Times: Tampering; Washington Post: EU; OHCHR Press Release; Washington Post: Lawmakers] The election, which featured allies of President Nicolás Maduro as the only candidates, was held amid growing concerns that the nation is moving dangerously toward a dictatorship. [New York Times: Tampering; Washington Post: EU] The vote spurred public demonstrations, protests, and violence, resulting in at least 10 deaths; the total deaths due to unrest in the country since April now totals at least 125. [CNN: Clash] Zeid also expressed concern over the two opposition leaders who were recently detained after advocating for Venezuelans to protest in response to the election. [OHCHR Press Release; Guardian]

The international human rights community has expressed concern over the situation in the State. In addition to Zeid’s comments, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently denounced Venezuela’s prohibition of public gatherings and suppression of journalism, calling on the State to adhere to its international human rights obligations. [IACHR Press Release: Election; IACHR Press Release: Expression] The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) weighed in on the legality of the election through the publication of a preliminary opinion, finding the election threatened principles of democracy. As a State party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Venezuela is obligated to protect the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, due process, and participation in public affairs, among others. Read more

July 2017: United Nations and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session

Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
Credit: Risuciu via Wikimedia Commons

In the month of July, various universal and regional bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by engaging in interactive dialogues, considering State and civil society reports, conducting country visits, and reviewing individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to the rights of women, civil and political rights, torture, and racial discrimination. A working group will meet to discuss complaints submitted to the Human Rights Council, an expert mechanism will meet to discuss the rights of indigenous peoples, and two UN special procedure mandate holders will conduct country visits. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights will be in session. Additionally, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case concerning the right to a fair trial in Croatia.

The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court and Inter-American Commission, may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Commission’s website and Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit IJRC’s Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

OAS General Assembly Elects Three New IACHR Commissioners

The current composition of the seven Commissioners on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Credit: CIDH

Joel Hernández García (Mexico), Antonia Urrejola Noguera (Chile), and Flávia Cristina Piovesan (Brazil) were elected to join the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) at the 47th Regular Session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly held in Cancun, Mexico between June 19 and June 21, 2017. See OAS, 47th Regular Session. They will join four other IACHR Commissioners next calendar year to complete the seven-member IACHR, and replace outgoing IACHR Commissioners James Cavallaro (United States), Paulo Vannuchi (Brazil), and Jose de Jesus Orozco Henriquez (Mexico). The three new Commissioners were among a group of six candidates competing for the three vacant positions. Following criticism over lack of transparency and civil society involvement in the selection and election of new Commissioners to the IACHR, this election involved an independent panel organized by civil society to assess the qualifications of each of the candidates. [Open Society Foundations Press Release] The panel was convened by the Center for Justice and Law (CEJIL), the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), and the Open Society Justice Initiative with the support of other civil society organizations, universities, and bar associations. [CEJIL: SIAHRS] Read more

News Clips- June 9, 2017

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Cherry X via Wikimedia Commons

Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts


  • After the United States President announced last week that the State will leave the Paris Climate Agreement, cities and states in the country announced that they will still comply with the Paris Agreement. [Guardian; Voice of America]
  • This week, the opposition party in Lesotho won a majority of parliamentary seats during a snap election. [Al Jazeera]
  • Last Friday, the Prime Minister of Cambodia announced that opposition parties in the State should not attempt to challenge recent local elections or they could be dissolved. [Washington Post]
  • The United States warned again this week that it may pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the UN body reconsiders how States, particularly those with negative human rights records, become members of the Council. [Washington Post]

Civil Society

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last Friday called for an investigation into the deaths of five protesters in Bahrain. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • After five farmers died at a rally in India, protesters demonstrated on Wednesday, prompting the deployment of troops on Thursday. [Washington Post; ABC News]
  • Detainees in Venezuela, including protesters detained for demonstrating, claim they are being beaten and tortured while in custody. [Miami Herald]

News Clips- May 26, 2017

United Nations Security Council discusses South Sudan
Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Civil Society

  • On Wednesday, after eight weeks of protests, the death toll in Venezuela rose to 56 people. [LA Times]
  • On Wednesday, anti-government protesters in Brazil set fire to a ministry building, and in response, President Michel Temer gave the army policing power to restore order. [Reuters]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Wednesday, a bombing in Somalia, claimed by al-Shabaab, killed five and injured six civilians. [Reuters]
  • On Tuesday, two United Nations peacekeepers were killed in Mali. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, at least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, Britain. [Guardian]
  • On Friday, a United Nations report concluded that soldiers in South Sudan responsible for killing more than 100 civilians between July 2016 and January 2017 may be liable for war crimes or crimes against humanity. [Newsweek]


  • On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court in Taiwan ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, allowing Taiwan’s legislature two years to amend its laws. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, 100 men were arrested in Indonesia in a raid on a gay sauna. [Guardian]
  • On Friday, 27 men were arrested in Bangladesh based on suspicions that they are gay. [Washington Post]

Activities of International Bodies

  • On Wednesday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created three new thematic units: the Unit on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice; and Unit of the Rights of Older Persons. [IACHR Press Release]
  • On Wednesday, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched guidelines for the proper investigation of unlawful killings. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • This week, a panel supported by the United Nations publicly released a draft of a treaty that would ban the possession and use of all nuclear weapons. [Guardian]
  • On Friday, the European Parliament passed a resolution requesting a United Nations-led investigation into the killing of protesters in Ethiopia. [HRW]

Migrants, Asylum Seekers, & Refugees

Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva Elected as New IACHR Commissioner

Commissioners Margarette May Macaulay and Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño
Credit: IACHR

On May 10, 2017, Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva was elected by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) to be one of seven Commissioners of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), replacing former Commissioner Enrique Gil Botero, who resigned on March 9. [IACHR Press Release: Election; IACHR Press Release: Resignation] Vargas Silva will fulfill the remainder of Gil Botero’s four-year term, which began on January 1, 2016, and ends on December 31, 2019. [IACHR Press Release: Election] Vargas Silva, who has worked in Colombia’s judiciary for 40 years, including as a judge on the Constitutional Court for nearly eight, has strived to improve the nation’s judicial system in order to “overcome the systematic violation of the fundamental rights of the displaced population.” [IACHR Press Release: Election] As Commissioner, he vows to “work to improve the effectiveness of the [Inter-American Human Rights System] and to advance a culture of respect for human rights in all member countries of the [OAS].” [IACHR Press Release: Election] Six candidates are competing to join Vargas Silva on the Commission to fill three additional spots due to become available at the end of 2017. While an independent panel recently assessed the qualifications of those six candidates, Vargas Silva’s qualifications were not examined by the panel. [Open Society Foundations] The OAS General Assembly will select in June the three new Commissioners. [Open Society Foundations] Read more

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