Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
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Universal Periodic Review Working Group – 12th Session

Universal Period Review of Venezuela

Statement by Australia

7 October 2011

Australia welcomes the delegation from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and appreciates its engagement in the Universal Periodic Review Process.

Australia recognises the ongoing efforts of the Venezuelan Government to strengthen the country’s domestic legislative framework on indigenous rights, and its work in alleviating poverty and improving access to education and health.

Australia is deeply concerned by reports that the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela has been undermined. We encourage Venezuela to ensure transparency across the justice sector and to safeguard the independence of courts and judges. We also encourage further action to remove impediments to citizens’ right to access government-held information.

We are also deeply concerned by reports of limitations placed on freedom of expression and opinion, including restrictions on particular media outlets and journalists. We note that the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion has made several communications to the government on this and related issues. We strongly urge the government to ensure that all laws and policies conform with its international human rights obligations, including those relating to freedom of expression and opinion.

Australia is concerned that the Venezuelan authorities have not authorized any visits from regional or international human rights organisations in recent years.

We welcome efforts by the government to promote the rights of persons with disabilities, including in the areas of education, health care and transport. However, we note that Venezuela is not a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or its Optional Protocol.

Australia recommends Venezuela:
1. Take necessary measures to ensure transparency in the independent appointment of judicial and prosecutorial officers;

2. Ensure timely and effective access to government information;

3. Take steps to protect freedom of expression and opinion, in line with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

4. Invite representatives of international human rights organisations to visit Venezuela, including by issuing a standing invitation to the UN special procedures, and

5. Sign and ratify the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.