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Venezuela violates human rights, OAS commission reports

  • Report: Judiciary and legislature lack independence in dealings with president
  • "Punitive power of the state" is used against political opponents, report says
  • President Hugo Chavez's critics cite trumped-up charges, punishing of media
  • Chavez credited for observing rights regarding economic, social, cultural matters

Washington (CNN) -- Venezuela routinely violates human rights, often intimidating or punishing citizens based on their political beliefs, an Organization of American States commission said in a report released Wednesday.

The 319-page report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says a lack of independence by Venezuela's judiciary and legislature in their dealings with leftist President Hugo Chavez often leads to the abuses.

"The report finds that not all individuals are ensured full enjoyment of their rights irrespective of their positions on government policies," the human rights panel said. "The commission also finds that the punitive power of the state is being used to intimidate or punish people on account of their political opinions. The commission believes that conditions do not exist for human rights defenders and journalists to be able to freely carry out their work."

Chavez's critics say his government represses political opponents and the expression of free ideas by jailing critics on trumped-up charges or pulling licenses for TV and radio stations and shutting down newspapers.

The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington did not immediately answer telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

The OAS commission's report also notes "the existence of a pattern of impunity in cases of violence, which particularly affects media workers, human rights defenders, trade unionists, participants in public demonstrations, people held in custody, 'campesinos' (small-scale and subsistence farmers), indigenous people, and women."

The report gives credit to Chavez's government for observing citizens' rights with regard to economic, social and cultural matters. But that does not give the government permission to trample human rights, the panel said.

Read the IACHR report

"The commission emphasizes that observance of other fundamental rights cannot be sacrificed for the sake of realizing economic, social and cultural rights in Venezuela," the report states.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an autonomous panel created by the OAS. The commission consists of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country. They are elected by the OAS General Assembly.