On March 24, 2009, Commissioners of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a public hearing on the use of political disqualifications as a violation of political rights in Venezuela. Leopoldo López and the State of Venezuela presented arguments relating to the case.
This video contains the arguments as presented by Leopoldo López and his attorney. López denounced, before the highest human rights authority in the hemisphere, that the measure against him violated his fundamental rights and weakened democracy in Venezuela and the region.
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On March 1 and 2, 2011, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court) in San José, Costa Rica will hold a public hearing to decide whether or not the Venezuelan government arbitrarily disqualified opposition leader Leopoldo López from exercising his political rights
López decided to appeal to the Inter-American Human Rights System (part of the Organization of American States, OAS) as the Venezuelan government had barred him politically and ignored allowable limits to political rights as enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights (the Convention).
This case is particularly significant as it marks the first time that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presents a case to the Court accusing an OAS member state of violating Article 23 of the Convention. Article 23 regulates the exercise of political rights. The Court’s decision is binding for OAS member states and will set jurisprudence for similar cases in the future.
In 2005, the Venezuelan Comptroller General politically disqualified Leopoldo López, thereby prohibiting him from pursuing election to political office. The Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, pursuant to Article 23 of the Convention, establishes that political rights can only be suspended “by for a final and definitive criminal decision.” In other words, only those “convicted of a crime” may have their political rights restricted. López has neither gone to trial nor been convicted. In his view, political motivations are behind the unjust disqualification.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that the Venezuelan State violated the rights of López and requested the nullification of the disqualification and amendment of the law which permits the Comptroller General to politically disqualify individuals without trial or conviction. The IACHR also stated that the Venezuelan State should refrain from any further utilization of these procedures.
On March 4, 2008, López requested protection before the IACHR (Case 12.668), stating that his disqualification violated the Venezuelan Constitution and Articles 8, 23 and 25 as well as 1.1 and 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Both the IACHR and the Court are responsible for ensuring compliance with the Convention within the OAS framework.
In March 2009, the IACHR permitted both López and the Venezuelan government to defend their respective positions in a public hearing in Washington. In December 2009, the IACHR presented the case against the Venezuelan State to the Court.
A Case of Particular Significance
This Court’s decision will be crucial for the future of democracy in the region and particularly in Venezuela. Approximately 300 other opposition political leaders–also disqualified by the Venezuelan State–stand to benefit from the result. In addition, the case would also set precedent throughout the hemisphere and prevent future use of political disqualification as a tool for persecution and restriction of political rights.
Leopoldo López Lopez Leopold López José Antonio Maes Venezuela democracy State trial case Inter-American Commission on Human Rights IACHR Organization American States OAS OEA human rights political disqualification inhabilitado inhabilitación politicians elections free competitive Caracas Washington Comptroller General arbitrary decision justice liberty precedent court democracia Supreme persecution exclusion government discrimination