In a March 16 hearing the Venezuelan representative in the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Germán Saltrón, again rejected the IACHR’s petition to visit Venezuela, reiterating the criticisms the Venezuelan government has made of the Commission. For Saltrón, the “parcialization of the Commission can be irrefutably demonstrated,” because the Commission “has been used for decades by the government of the USA and its allies to destabilize progressive regimes”. The new spat between Venezuela and the Commission comes less than a week before the continent’s Foreign Ministers meet to discuss reforms to the Commission.

Venezuela argues that the Commission should move its headquarters from Washington to a different country where it would presumably not be under the pressure of the US government. They point out that the US government has not even ratified the American Convention on Human Rights.

In the past, Venezuela had argued that visits to the country by the Commission would be impossible while the previous Secretary of the Commission, Santiago Cantón, was still in charge since he failed to order precautionary measures in favor of President Hugo Chávez during the April 2002 coup. Now it says that the IACHR will not be allowed to visit until it has engaged in a process of “self-critique” for this failure.

Venezuela withdrew last year form the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, also part of the Inter-American human rights regime, after the Court ruled in favor of Raúl Díaz Peña, a Venezuelan convicted of bombing the Colombian and Spanish embassies in Caracas in 2003. At that time the Court did not rule on the fairness of his sentence, but on the “inhuman treatment” suffered by Peña in prison.

The hearing in which the Commission’s asked to visit was actually called by the Venezuelan delegation to, according to Saltrón, reject the “unfounded denunciations by Venezuelan and foreign NGOs that have been systematically welcomed by the Commission and the Inter-American Court, even when most of those denunciations have not been accompanied by precise facts.” On the same day (March 16), the Comission had two closed doors hearings with Venezuelan human rights NGOs.

Felipe Gonzalez, the member of the Commission that made the new petition to visit Venezuela during the hearing, declared that he had heard several explanations by the Venezuelan Government over the years on why it rejected the visits and that “now new ones are starting to show up.”