Venezuela’s judiciary has become a tool for political control of the country by the Executive branch rather than a defender of the rule of law, said the ICJ in a report launched today.
The 55-page report Judges on the Tightrope documents the undermining of judicial independence in the country, due to the political control or influence on the judiciary, and because of the role the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) has played in undermining the independence of judges around the country.
“Justice is a human right and it is a fundamental right for the protection of other rights. Without the essential guarantees of the independence and impartiality of judges, we do not have justice. In Venezuela today, the right to justice is not guaranteed, to the extent that we do not have a system of independent and impartial judges,” said Carlos Ayala, ICJ’s vice president.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice, long controlled by the country’s Executive branch, has overseen a collapse of the rule of law in the country, with some 85 percent of judges holding provisional posts that subject them to political pressure, and courts receiving direct pressure to return verdicts in support of the government and against human right defenders and critics of the government.
“The political takeover of the SJC has placed judges on a tightrope in Venezuela, rendering them unable to defend the rule of law, to provide accountability for the many gross human rights violations in the country, or to protect the rights of the Venezuelan people”, said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Secretary General.
The ICJ recommended Venezuela to depoliticize the judiciary in general, and specifically the Supreme Court of Justice. In addition, the report sets a series of specific recommendations to achieve these goals, in particular by:
- Advancing with appointment processes for judges in accordance with constitutional provisions and international standards;
- Establishing independent and autonomous mechanisms within the judiciary for the selection of judges and for exercising of disciplinary functions; and
- Strengthening transparency and accountability in the justice system.
The ICJ called on Venezuelan authorities to comply with international human rights law and international standards related to judicial independence, as well as with the decisions and recommendations that different bodies in the United Nations and Inter-American Human Rights System have made, and allow access to the country for international human rights procedures and mechanisms that will contribute to accountability and the restoration of the rule of law.
The ICJ also urged the UN Human Rights Council to maintain a mechanism to address proper accountability for gross human rights violations until the Venezuelan prosecutors, courts and tribunals are capable of effectively investigating, prosecuting and judging with independence and impartiality those violations.
Carolina Villadiego Burbano, Latin American Legal and Policy Adviser, email: carolina.villadiego(a)icj.org
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