Venezuela unfit for election to Human Rights Council


Venezuela’s human rights record, including in attacking human rights defenders and systematically perpetrating reprisals against those who cooperate with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, should preclude it from serving another term on the Council, 36 international and Latin American human rights organisations said today. 

(New York) - Venezuela’s human rights record, including as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, should preclude it from serving another term on the Council, 36 international and Latin American human rights organisations said today. Elections for the 2016-2018 term of the Council will be held in New York on 28 October 2015 by Member States of the United Nations General Assembly. Members elected to the Human Rights Council are required to uphold the highest standards in the protection and promotion of human rights.

The Venezuelan government’s human rights practices, its rejection of the work of international human rights bodies, and its voting record at the Human Rights Council during the past three years make it unfit to hold a seat, the groups said.

While serving on the Human Rights Council during its current term, the Venezuelan government has seriously violated basic human rights standards the body is meant to promote. In 2014, Venezuelan security forces violently cracked down on largely peaceful protests systematically over a period of weeks. They arbitrarily arrested demonstrators and bystanders, severely beat and tortured them in detention, and denied them basic due process rights.

The government also arrested and prosecuted opposition politicians and lesser-known critics on arbitrary grounds, brought criminal defamation charges against owners and journalists working in critical media outlets, and harassed and intimidated human rights defenders who questioned these and other abuses of power.

In addition to its disregard for fundamental freedoms within its borders, the Venezuelan government has rejected meaningful scrutiny of its human rights record by international human rights bodies. It has not allowed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit the country for over a decade, and has not allowed any UN special rapporteurs to visit since 1996. It withdrew from the American Convention on Human Rights in 2012, depriving Venezuelans who suffer abuses from seeking protection from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It rejected key recommendations issued during the 2011 Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record by the Human Rights Council and did not fully carry out those it accepted.

Venezuela also has one of the worst voting records at the Human Rights Council. It has repeatedly rejected resolutions aimed at addressing serious human rights violations, including country specific resolutions on Belarus, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine that were endorsed by other Latin American governments. At the UN Security Council, it blocked measures to curb abuses in South Sudan and Syria.

The groups said that reelecting Venezuela to the HRC would send a dangerous message that the international community is indifferent to Venezuela’s violations of human rights and rejection of human rights mechanisms, and that the principles that the Human Rights Council was created to protect are not meant to be taken seriously.

Adding to the groups' joint statement, ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw said that systematic acts of intimidation and reprisals perpetrated or acquiesced in by Venezuelan authorities against individuals and NGOs who have sought to provide evidence or testimony or otherwise cooperate with the UN is fundamentally incompatible with Council membership. 'It is unacceptable - and should be inconceivable - that Venezuela could be elected to a body that it actively undermines and attacks by defaming, threatening and even imprisoning people who engage with it,' she said.

Adding to ths, ISHR Legal Counsel Madeleine Sinclair said, 'Venezuela's repeated acts of intimidation against reprisals against people who cooperate with the Human Rights Council should be approached by voting States as an automatically disqualifier when it comes to elections on 28 October. Venezuela is simply not fit for membership.'

Over the last year, Venezuela's repeated acts to intimidate and punish human rights defenders who have cooperated or sought to cooperate with international and regional human rights mechanisms have been documented and condemned by UN Special Rapporteurs, the UN Human Rights Committtee, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and international and Venezuelan civil society organisations.


The joint statement was made by:

  • Acción Solidaria en VIH/Sida (Venezuela)
  • Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) (Peru)
  • Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC) (Argentina)
  • Asamblea de Educación (Venezuela)
  • Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan, A.C. (México)
  • Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez, A.C. (Centro Prodh) (Mexico)
  • CEPAZ (Venezuela)
  • Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos, A.C. (CADHAC) (Mexico)
  • Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (Venezuela)
  • CIVILIS Derechos Humanos (Venezuela)
  • Coalición de Organizaciones por el derecho a la salud y la vida (CODEVIDA) (Venezuela)
  • Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (Colombia)
  • Comisión para los Derechos Humanos del estado Zulia (CODHEZ) (Venezuela)
  • Corporación Humanas (Chile)
  • Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (Peru)
  • Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)
  • Espacio Público (Venezuela)
  • Fenasopadres (Venezuela)
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay (IELSUR) (Uruguay)
  • Fundación Aguaclara (Venezuela)
  • Fundación Ensayos para el Aprendizaje Permanente (FEPAP) (Venezuela)
  • Fundación Myrna Mack (Guatemala)
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Observatorio Ciudadano (Chile)
  • Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela)
  • Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (Venezuela)
  • Observatorio Venezolano de Salud (Venezuela)
  • Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA) (Venezuela)
  • Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  • Transparency International
  • Transparencia Venezuela
  • Unión Afirmativa (Venezuela)
  • Venezuela Diversa (Venezuela)


  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • Human rights defenders
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • UN General Assembly
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Venezuela