Rights activists hail Venezuela’s departure from UN Human Rights Council – but not its vote for Venezuela
This story was published in partnership with The Nation
On Monday night, Venezuela, one of the world’s most powerful governments, walked out of the United Nations Human Rights Council in New York, joining several other countries that have decided not to participate in the body’s upcoming 60-member plenary session, scheduled to begin on 24 March. The reason for Venezuela’s withdrawal is a long-running battle between the country’s government and opposition, in which, in the absence of full control over Venezuela’s oil export revenues, the opposition has been attempting to strip the government of the ability to conduct any foreign policy decisions, and at the same time, to challenge the legitimacy of the government through various means.
The US, European and other states that remain on the council will now have to negotiate with Iran over the right to attend the plenary session. It is understood that Saudi Arabia and South Africa are among countries to be considered.
In a press release on Monday morning, the UN and Venezuelan government announced that Venezuela’s government had “unequivocally rejected” the right of other countries to participate in the proceedings and that it was instead choosing to leave the council.
The statement said that the government’s decision was made in part to allow its delegates to participate in the meeting on 24 March, but that it also took the decision out of respect for the work of the UN secretary general, and in order to “allow all states to participate in a free, democratic and peaceful debate, free of interference”.
“The resolution was clear: Venezuela does not accept the right of states to interfere in the work of the United Nations and seek to block the work of the United Nations in its entirety,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. “The time has come for states not to impede dialogue, to refrain from using this mechanism for one-sided political aims, nor for its use for internal political purposes.”
But the opposition has since seized upon the decision to highlight its significance in terms of Venezuela’s international relations.