• Supreme Court orders Chile's government to seek help from OAS
  • OAS should send delegation to check health of Leopoldo Lopez

Chile’s Supreme Court ruled that the government should ask the Organization of American States to protect the rights of two political prisoners in Venezuela -- a move that is likely to trigger allegations from Venezuela of meddling in internal affairs.

Overturning a previous ruling by a regional tribunal, the court said the government should ask the OAS to send a delegation to the prison in Venezuela where opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Daniel Ceballos are being held. The delegation would check on their health and prepare a report for the general assembly of the OAS, of which Chile is a member.

“This is unprecedented,” said Jorge Contesse, a law professor at Rutgers School of Law in the U.S. “The president has the authority to conduct international relations in Chile. To have the judiciary stepping into international affairs like this is very strange.”

The court cited treaties on human rights for its decision and said Venezuelan courts “didn’t appear to be providing sufficient protection to Lopez and Ceballos.” A former Venezuelan prosecutor who says he participated in the case against Lopez and then fled to the U.S. alleged last month that the trial was fixed. Lopez is innocent, Franklin Nieves said in an interview on CNN Espanol from Miami.

While there have been cases where universal jurisdiction has been cited, such as the arrest of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet in the U.K. in 1998, it doesn’t apply in this case, Contesse said.

“Whatever you think of the situation in Venezuela, this ruling fails to show that universal jurisdiction applies,” he said.

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