In Venezuela today, the rule of law is being undermined by a failure to ensure the independence of the judiciary, prosecutors, and the legal profession. This side event at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council described the challenges and discussed recommendations towards better respect for human rights through a strengthening of the rule of law.
An independent justice system is indispensable to individuals’ rights to have access to justice and to fair trial. For human rights to be fully realized, victims and potential victims of violations must be able to seek and receive effective redress and protection. Theoretical legal guarantees are not enough: in practice, lawyers must be free to bring forward victims’ claims, prosecutors must be able and willing to bring proceedings against all those accused of responsibility, and justice must be administered by impartial and independent judges. Current events in Venezuela only underscore the urgent need to address all of these elements.
The event presented and discussed perspectives from the ground against the backdrop of relevant international standards, drawing on recent reports by the ICJ and IBA, and the expertise of the panelists and audience. It examined institutional arrangements and practices as well as emblematic individual cases such as the continuing reprisals against Judge María Lourdes Afiuni.
Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Pedro Nikken, Venezuelan Lawyer & former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Alex Wilks, Senior Programme Lawyer, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
Wilder Tayler, Secretary General, International Commission of Jurists (moderator)
Presentations by panellists were followed by an interactive session with the audience. English/Spanish interpretation was provided.
Copies of the following reports were available:
- Fortaleciendo el Estado de Derecho en Venezuela (Strengthening the Rule of Law in Venezuela), International Commission of Jurists, to be published 5 June 2014.
- The Execution of Justice: The Criminal Trial of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni, International Bar Association, published 29 April 2014.