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On Friday Human Freedom Fellow Joel D. Hirst appeared in the Washington studios of NTN24 – a major Colombia based news and opinion program that reaches across the hemisphere. Hirst was debating with others the decision of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to withdraw his country from the Inter-American Human Rights Court. Appearing with Hirst was, among others, former Venezuelan political prison Raul Diaz Pena who’s favorable ruling in the Costa Rica based human rights court prompted this new move by Chavez. Hirst emphasized that international arbitration mechanisms were set to defend natural “civil and political” rights that know no nationality and are not subject to the whims of individual leaders. Furthermore, Chavez’ withdrawal from the court violates Venezuela’s constitution and leaves the Venezuelan people outside the OAS’s protection mechanisms. On Sunday morning Human Freedom Fellow Joel D. Hirst appeared on the Madrid based Spanish Radio Digital Madrid via Skype to discuss the prison situation in Venezuela. Since the creation earlier this year of the Ministry for Prisons over 500 prisoners have been killed in the prisons. In the debate, Hirst emphasized that the situation is one of the worst in the world and far from improving during the Administration of Hugo Chavez the prison situation has deteriorated. This includes over ½ of the prison population being un-sentenced; being held together with condemned prisoners; holding of women prisoners in close proximity with males; and the unacceptable level of violence where prisoners are allowed to possess heavy weaponry. Finally, the situation of prisoners of conscience forced into these perilous circumstances. Hirst emphasized all these issues violate the rights of the prisoners, rights such as due process, the right to be judged in freedom, and others.
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