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Venezuela pulling out of OAS human rights bodies

Venezuela has begun the process of pulling out of two human rights bodies by formally withdrawing from a regional human rights pact, the Organization of American States said Monday.

Venezuela's government notified OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza that it is renouncing the American Convention on Human Rights, the OAS said in a statement.

It said Insulza regrets that decision, calling the human rights convention "one of the pillars of the legal regulations" aimed at defending human rights in the Americas.

Venezuela's decision means that after one year it will no longer be a party to the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights or the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

"The Secretary General expressed his hope that ... Venezuela may reconsider its decision," the OAS said.

The human rights convention says countries may renounce the document "by means of notice given one year in advance." It also says that process won't release any withdrawing party in the meantime from obligations in the convention.

The Venezuelan government didn't immediately comment on the matter.

President Hugo Chavez announced in July that he planned to pull out of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights 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.

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

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.

Chavez said previously that he favored the idea of pulling out of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, accusing it of wrongly campaigning against his government and acting at the behest of the U.S. government.

Henrique Sanchez Falcon, a law professor at Central University of Venezuela, called the government's decision a negative step, saying if Venezuela does withdraw from the rights bodies it would constitute a violation of the country's own constitution and would require changes to some articles.

Human rights activist Liliana Ortega, who heads the Venezuelan rights group Cofavic, condemned the government's action.

"We appeal for restraint and for this decision to be overturned because we also think it's a very serious political mistake to do it at this time, and not only in the electoral context but also for the message it sends to the world," Ortega said in a telephone interview.

Chavez is seeking another six-year term in the country's Oct. 7 presidential election.