Venezuela rejects criticism on rights as biased

Venezuela rejected criticism of its human rights record Thursday, dismissing as biased a key regional body that put it on its black list as a rights abuser.

Venezuela has "excellent conduct in matters of human rights," said German Saltron, its representative on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Last year, the commission faulted Venezuela for a "lack of independence" of its courts, abuse of criminal prosecutions, and attacks on human rights activists.

The commission, which is an independent body of the Organization of American States, has opened a new set of hearings on the situation in Venezuela.

About half a dozen organizations were scheduled to testify about police violence, violations of legal rights, and political discrimination against civic and labor organizations.

Saltron, however, accused the commission of "repeated bias" against Venezuela and said the critics were looking for excuses to attack the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

"They are creating cases to demonize the government and later justify any manner of aggression against it," he said.

In September, Venezuela withdrew from the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, which means that the Inter-American Court on Human Rights based in San Jose, Costa Rica no longer has jurisdiction over new human rights cases involving it.

But the commission can still gather evidence on past cases.