Restoring the Rule of Law in Venezuela

The ICJ today highlighted the role of the “National Constituent Assembly” in Venezuela in contributing to the destruction of the rule of law in the country, in an oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council.

The statement, delivered during an Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the situation for human rights in Venezuela, in the presence of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, read as follows:

“Madame High Commissioner,

Next week the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) will publish a detailed report on the “National Constituent Assembly” of Venezuela (NCA) mentioned briefly in your report (A/HRC/41/18, para 34).

The NCA was created unilaterally by the President, without popular endorsement through a referendum, in blatant violation of the Constitution.

As your report notes (footnote 26), the NCA has purported to act as a de facto Parliament. In this it has unlawfully usurped legislative powers clearly assigned by the Constitution to the already-existing National Assembly. Among other things, it has called early presidential elections and removed the Attorney General. It was the NCA that actually rescinded legislative immunity for National Assembly representatives, enabling their arrest and prosecution, after the Supreme Court purported to authorize it to do so (para 37).

Furthermore, as ICJ has extensively documented and your report recognizes, the Venezuelan judiciary has been deprived of its independence and impartiality (paras 56 and 76).[1] Lack of access to justice for widespread gross human rights violations by security forces is pervasive (paras 39 to 59, 77 to 79).

In this context, the NCA essentially operates as an unchecked instrument of the President, unilaterally modifying the legal system, declaring itself above the Constitution, and contributing to the destruction of the rule of law.

We therefore particularly welcome the recommendations in your report to restore the independence of the justice system and impartiality of the Attorney General (81(j)), to bring perpetrators of gross human rights violations to justice (81(c)), and for a renewed focus by the Council on accountability (para 83).

The ICJ further urges that the NCA must be abolished and the National Assembly allowed to operate normally with its full powers, if the rule of law is to have any chance of being restored in Venezuela.

We support calls for the Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism.

Thank you.”

[1] See, among other ICJ reports: Venezuela: The Sunset of the Rule of Law (2015); The Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela: an Instrument of the Executive Branch (2017); and Achieving Justice for Gross Human Rights Violations in Venezuela (2017).

AdvocacyNon-legal submissions