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Venezuela to pull out of OAS human rights bodies

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FABIOLA SANCHEZ | July 26, 2012 09:24 PM EST | AP

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela will soon notify the Organization of American States that it is pulling out of a regional human rights convention as well as two bodies that hear rights cases, the country's top diplomat said Thursday.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro told The Associated Press that President Hugo Chavez's government will give OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza a document formalizing the decision in "the coming hours."

He said that will begin a required one-year waiting period, after which Venezuela will no longer be a party to the American Convention on Human Rights. Venezuela also says it is withdrawing from both the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

"The damage that this commission and this court have done is so great that there's no possibility of being reformed," Maduro said. He said the government document would lay out "all the decisions that this commission and this court have made against Venezuela in 10 years."

Speaking during a re-election campaign rally for the leftist president, Maduro denied that withdrawing from the rights convention would involve leaving the OAS itself.

Chavez announced his decision to pull out of the rights court on Tuesday after it sided with a Venezuelan, Raul Diaz, who was accused of participating in 2003 bombings of the Spanish Embassy and Colombian consulate in Caracas. Four people were injured in those attacks.

Diaz was sentenced to more than nine years in prison, but in 2010 he fled the country after a court allowed him out for work during certain hours. He sought asylum in the United States. Diaz has long maintained he had no role in the attacks and has accused Venezuelan authorities of violating his rights in the case.

The rights court ruled in Diaz's favor last week, saying Venezuela was responsible for violating his rights and for inhumane and degrading treatment during his imprisonment.

Chavez accused the court of "supporting terrorism" in siding with Diaz.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Wednesday that if Venezuela withdraws from the rights court "would be sending a deeply regrettable message about its commitment to human rights and democracy."

"The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is a highly respected, independent and autonomous body of the OAS, and we would hate to see Venezuela walk away from it, particularly in light of those people inside Venezuela fighting for their democratic rights," she said.

Venezuelan human rights groups have warned that if Chavez's government withdraws from such bodies, victims of rights abuses would have fewer venues in which to make their cases.