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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Preserve separation of powers, Zeid urges Venezuela

Venezuela ruling

31 March 2017

GENEVA (31 March 2017) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has expressed grave concern at the ruling by the Venezuelan Supreme Court to take over the legislative powers of the National Assembly.

“I strongly urge the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. The separation of powers is essential for democracy to function, and keeping democratic spaces open is essential to ensure human rights are protected,” Zeid said.

“Venezuelan citizens have the right to participate in public affairs through their freely chosen representatives, as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights*, which Venezuela has ratified. Duly elected members of parliament should also be able to exercise the powers given to them by the Venezuelan Constitution,” he added.

On 29 March, the Supreme Court ruled that the opposition-controlled National Assembly was in contempt of court, and that as long as this situation persisted, the Court would exercise parliamentary powers directly. It also indicated that the President of the Republic should take the civil, economic, military, criminal, administrative, political, juridical and social measures he deemed necessary to avoid what was termed “a state of commotion”.

The High Commissioner, who has voiced increasing concern at the lack of independence of national rule of law institutions in Venezuela, also called on the Government to guarantee people’s rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. 

“Continued restrictions on the freedoms of movement, association, expression and peaceful protest are not only deeply worrying but counter-productive in an extremely polarised country suffering economic and social crises,” Zeid said.

“Respect for human rights should serve as a common ground for addressing the shortages of food and medicine, and spiralling prices that have resulted in daily suffering for many Venezuelans,” he said. 

The High Commissioner noted the regional engagement by the Organization of American States (OAS) on the situation in Venezuela, and urged all OAS member states to ensure human rights concerns are taken into consideration during their deliberations.


*ICCPR Article 25:
Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:

(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.

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