GENEVA, June 15, 2016 — In a major clash today at the UN Human Rights Council, Venezuela and its allies made a failed bid to stop the U.S. from criticizing the Maduro regime’s record on judicial independence, even pushing for a rare procedural vote which sought to overrule the president’s ruling allowing for specific countries to be named.
Venezuela’s motion, seconded by Cuba, failed by a razor-thin margin of 13 to 12, with 11 abstaining, and 11 absent due to the vote taking place in the evening, past normal business hours. See video below.
The context was the presentation of an expert’s report on the independence of judges. The U.S. expressed concern about the threat to judicial independence in Venezuela.
Seven seconds after the first utterance of the word ‘Venezuela’, that country’s delegate called a point of order. “If the US mentions my country again I will take the floor again,” said the Venezuelan delegate.
The council President, South Korean Ambassador Choi Kyong-lim, ruled that specific examples were relevant and hence that the United States could mention the case of Venezuela.
This was rejected by the Venezuelan delegate, who warned he “would interrupt as many times as is necessary.”
Cuba, Bolivia, Russia and Ecuador took the floor to back Venezuela’s stance.
The UK, the Netherlands and Germany backed the US, noting that the president had already ruled on the matter.
Venezuela called for a vote to overrule the president, seconded by Cuba, which stated that the president’s ruling was “not in line with the proceedings of this Council.”
The council took a rare 30-minute pause while experts advised the president on procedure. It was then decided to hold a vote on whether one could mention a country not referenced in the UN expert’s report.
The vote was narrowly in favor of allowing reference to specific countries not mentioned in the report, and the United States regained the floor 52 minutes after they had initially begun speaking.
Question: “Was the mention of a country not mentioned in the Special Rapporteur’s report in order?”
- 13 In favor: Belgium, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, South Korea, Switzerland, UK
- 12 Against: Bolivia, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Indonesia, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela, Viet Nam
- 11 Abstention: Algeria, Bangladesh, Botswana, India, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Togo, UAE
- 11 Absent: Albania, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mongolia, Morocco, Paraguay, Slovenia, Macedonia