“CHAVEZ UNDER PRESSURE TO DROP CHARGES AGAINST ARBITRARILY DETAINED JUDGE
By Ricky Zamora
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia – The arbitrary detention of Venezuelan Judge, Maria Lourdes Afiuni, is a blow to judicial independence and the rule of both Venezuelan and International Law, says the Special Rapporteur on the Independence for Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Carina Knaul de Albuquerque e Silva.
In December of 2009, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions declared the pre-trial detention of Venezuelan banker, Eligio Cedeño, to be arbitrary. Pursuant to the Working Group’s findings, Judge Afiuni conditionally released him. Minutes after issuing her decision, she was arrested for upholding Venezuelan and International Law.
Chavez’s government is seeking corruption charges against the Judge even though prosecutors explicitly stated that Afiuni had not received any payment or promise of payment. Afiuni remains in pre-trial detention.
The Venezuelan military police have also detained Cedeño’s defense lawyer and have held him under arrest without charges at intelligence headquarters.
“Afiuni’s decision to release Cedeño was expressly authorized in Article 264 of Venezuela’s Code of Criminal Procedure, which requires control judges to review periodically all pretrial preventative measures and grants judges complete discretion to modify pretrial detention for less stringent measures,” reports London-based attorney, Robert Amsterdam.
“Throwing a judge in prison for doing her job and issuing a decision that upholds fundamental rights protected under both Venezuelan and International Law is not something you’d expect in a functioning democracy,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director at Human Rights Watch. “Once again the Chavez Government has demonstrated its fundamental disregard for the principle of judicial independence,” he added.
Vivanco noted that Afiuni’s detention, taken together with the dramatic erosion of judicial independence in Venezuela under Chavez, makes it highly likely that she will receive an unfair trial
Human Rights Watch reports that on January 11th, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights ruled that Afiuni was entitled to protective measures and ordered Venezuela to be proactive in protecting Afiuni’s life and physical integrity and to transfer her to a safe place. The Venezuelan Government has yet to comply with the order.
In 2004, President Chavez and his supporters executed a political takeover of the Supreme Court. Since then, the Court has not been able to be a check on Executive power as it has since been comprised of government supporters. The result has been that the Court has failed to uphold fundamental rights of the Venezuelan constitution in cases involving government efforts to limit freedom of expression and association – fundamental rights.
For more information, please see:
HRW – Venezuela: Human Rights Watch Oral Statement Before the Human Rights Council – 03 June 2010
HRW – Venezuela: Stop Attacks on Judicial Independence – 08 April 2010
Robert Amsterdam – Judge Maria Afiuni’s Decision Cited UN Working Group Opinion – 15 December 2009″
(Quelle: Impunity Watch.)