Publications: Thematic reports
Venezuela: rule of law and impunity crisis deepens
The institutional political crisis in Venezuela has brought the rule of law to near collapse and severely obstructed accountability for those responsible for gross human rights violations, the ICJ concluded in a report released today.
The ICJ’s report Achieving Justice for Gross Human Rights Violations in Venezuela found that the authorities led by President Nicolás Maduro have undertaken a sustained campaign to take control of the Supreme Court of Justice and, with the Supreme Court’s support, suspend the constitutional powers of the former National Assembly and subvert efforts to hold the executive to account within a rule of law framework.
“Rule of law in Venezuela has been replaced by rule of arbitrary executive power,” said Alex Conte, ICJ’s Global Accountability coordinator.
“The Constitution is disregarded, the judiciary cannot exercise its independent function, and the separation of powers is non-existent,” he added.
The ICJ’s report concludes that the human rights situation in Venezuela has deteriorated rapidly in recent years, particularly since 2014.
Extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, the practices of torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, the trial of civilians by military courts and the criminalization and prosecution of political and social dissent have only increased.
“The political context of extreme polarization and the breakdown of the rule of law, along with the judiciary’s lack of independence, have severely obstructed accountability for those responsible for gross human rights violations,” said Conte.
“Victims and their families are left without justice.”
This situation has been further exacerbated by the recent dismissal of Venezuela’s Attorney General, described by the ICJ as a politically motivated act that violates international standards and removes one of the last institutional checks on executive authority and destroys one of the few glimmers of hope for an end to impunity for human rights violations.
Also troubling is the establishment by the new Consituent National Assembly of a ‘Truth Commission’, which the ICJ fears will be a politically manipulated instrument aimed at entrenching impunity for the executive and, when combined with President Maduro’s declaration that legal immunity will be stripped from National Assembly members that have opposed him, a tool to silence Government opposition, rather than to help discharge Venezuela’s duty to promptly, independently and effectively investigate allegations of gross human rights violations.
“Venezuela’s situation of entrenched impunity cannot be resolved without the establishment of an independent judicial authority that can address human rights violations, deter further violations and help bring back the rule of law,” Conte added.
Alex Conte, ICJ Global Redress and Accountability Initiative, t: +41 79 957 27 33; e: alex.conte(a)icj.org
Federico Andreu Guzman, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, Americas, e: Federico.andreu(a)icj.org
ICJ Report, Venezuela: The Sunset of the Rule of Law (October 2015)
ICJ Report, Strengthening the Rule of Law in Venezuela (November 2014)