Venezuela: ICJ denounces sentencing of Judge Afiuni

The ICJ condemns the sentencing of Venezuelan Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni to a further five years of imprisonment.

On 21 March, a court in Caracas sentenced Judge Afiuni on unfounded charges of “corruption”.

“This further five-year sentence against Judge Afiuni is both the latest in a long series of severe violations of her human rights, and also illustrates the grave extent to which independence of the judiciary in Venezuela has been more broadly undermined,” said Matt Pollard, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser and UN Representative.

Judge Afiuni was arbitrarily arrested and detained in 2009 after then-President Hugo Chavez publicly demanded she be imprisoned for 30 years, as she had released an accused person citing a decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that his detention was unlawful.

While in detention, she was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.

In 2010, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion declaring Judge Afiuni Mora’s detention arbitrary.

She was held in prison for 14 months before being transferred to house arrest for health reasons in 2011.

In 2013 she was granted parole but ordered not to leave the country or to use social media.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers reacted earlier today to the latest sentencing by reaffirming the arbitrariness of her deprivation of liberty and the fact that her treatment amounts to reprisals for having implemented the UN Working Group’s decision.

The Rapporteur also said that the ruling “underscored his serious concerns about the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela, the impartiality of judges and prosecutors and the pressures they faced in handling politically sensitive cases.”

Further background on the situation for the judiciary in Venezuela, and Judge Afiuni’s case, is available here.