Bolivia and Ecuador lead calls for OAS human rights commission reform

ALBA alliance announces withdrawal from hemispheric protection treaty

Correa of Ecuador (l) and Morales of Bolivia in Tiquipaya, Bolivia.
Correa of Ecuador (l) and Morales of Bolivia in Tiquipaya, Bolivia.J. KARITA (AP)

After a heated Organization of American States (OAS) regional meeting in Bolivia, four leftist Latin American nations announced Tuesday that they were pulling out of a hemispheric defense treaty.

Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua also demanded that the OAS reform the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) because they say the panel has “unfairly” targeted their governments at the behest of Washington.

The future of the IACHR will be decided in an upcoming report that is expected to be prepared by OAS secretary general José Miguel Insulza.

Meeting for the 42nd OAS assembly in Tiquipaya, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales and Ecuador’s leader Rafael Correa believe the IACHR needs profound changes to guarantee greater transparency and impartiality.

They also accuse the so-called Committee for the Guarantees of Freedom of Expression of the IACHR of unfairly accusing their leftist governments of passing media control laws. Correa and Morales said the media in many cases “are not practicing journalism, but instead extorting” their governments.

The foreign ministers met in Tiquipaya behind closed doors to begin discussions over the future of the IACHR. Many citizens across the region have gone to the IACHR to file human rights and other cases against their governments when they have been unable to obtain a favorable or fair judicial resolution in national courts.

We want to see any reforms done through consensus,” says the US

At the same time, the foreign ministers of Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua announced during the final day of the OAS assembly that their governments were also withdrawing from the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said the 1947 treaty, which was created as a US initiative, is no longer relevant. The treaty states, among other things, that an armed attack against any OAS member state is to be considered an attack against all of them.

At a news conference with his counterparts from the other three countries, Patiño said that they decided “to throw into the trash something that’s no longer useful.” It was a largely symbolic decision by the four nations, who form the left-leaning Bolivarian Alliance, or ALBA bloc, because the treaty still remains intact.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that the US government “certainly supports reforms to the management and procedures of the human rights organs of the OAS, but only those reforms that are achieved through consensus and that contribute to strengthening the institutions.”

“We want to see any reforms to these entities done through consensus,” Toner said.

Venezuela has said it wants to abandon the rights body, and Ecuador has proposed that the OAS restrict the panel’s independence. The United States is not subject to any oversight by the OAS.

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