A report launched today by the ICJ highlights a significant degradation in recent years of the situation of human rights and independence of the judiciary in Venezuela.
In its report, Venezuela: The Sunset of the Rule of Law, the ICJ underlines that since the publication of its June 2014 report– Strengthening the Rule of Law in Venezuela – there have been accelerated, serious and systematic attacks on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and a severe erosion of the rule of law.
“There is a clear disconnect between what is contained in the country’s Constitution and international obligations, and what happens in practice,” said Alejandro Salinas, the author of the report, who led a fact-finding mission for the ICJ in August 2015.
“This already grave situation has been aggravated by the fact that the Government has now effectively ceded a part of its sovereignty and authority to criminal organizations, through the establishment of so called ‘peace territories’,” he added.
As a result, there has been recently a clear escalation of attacks against human rights defenders and any form of social and political opposition, the ICJ says.
The high level of legal impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations and common felonies stands in stark contrast to the robust manner in which preventive and restrictive measures and prosecutions have been deployed to silence members of civil society, social activists and political opponents, the ICJ further notes.
“Without a doubt, there is a severe and persistent crisis of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. The international community has a duty to urgently address the situation in accordance with international law,” said Wilder Tayler, ICJ Secretary General.
The report also shows a worsening of the state of independence of the judiciary due to the lack of security of tenure enjoyed by most judges and prosecutors, and the failure of the State to guarantee human rights defenders and lawyers the full exercise of their rights and professional functions.
Some of the representative cases highlighted in the report include the reopening of the criminal trial against judge María Lourdes Afiuni; the preventive detention of lawyer Tadeo Arrieche; the arrest warrant against the executive members of the editorial board of the media “El Nacional”, “Tal Cual” y “La Patilla”; and the sentencing of the political opposition figure Leopoldo López to almost 14 years’ imprisonment.
In addition, the ICJ expressed concern at the state of emergency declared in 23 municipalities since August 2015. Persons in these municipalities have been subject to unjustified and unlawful restriction of certain of their rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The ICJ in its report also underscored the arbitrary measures taken against Colombian citizens, including children, who have been subject to deportation, as well as the unjustified restriction of rights, such as freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, ahead of the elections for the National Assembly scheduled for 6 December.
Wilder Tayler, ICJ Secretary General, t: +41 22 979 3825 ; e: wilder.tayler(a)icj.org
Alejandro Salinas, author of the report, e: alejandro.salinasrivera(a)gmail.com
Venezuela-Ocaso Estado Derecho-News-Press releases-2015-SPA (full press release in PDF, Spanish)
Venezuela-Sunset of Rule of Law-Publications-Reports-2015-ENG (full report in PDF, English)
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