****Report of the International Commission of Jurists, ICJ, on Venezuelan Justice
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is an international human rights non-governmental organization.The Commission itself is a standing group of 60 eminent jurists (including senior judges, attorneys and academics) dedicated to ensuring respect for international human rights standards through the law. Commissioners are known for their experience, knowledge and fundamental commitment to human rights.
Esta Comisión tiene su sede en Ginebra, Suiza y está integrada por 60 jueces y abogados de todo el mundo. Tiene como finalidad la protección de los derechos humanos en base a la aplicación del estado de derecho. El Resumen Ejecutivo del Informe sobre Venezuela, de Mayo 2014 dice lo siguiente:
“……..This report notes the lack of independence of the judiciary in Venezuela, starting with the
functions of the Office of the General Attorney, which has the duty to investigate and prosecute
crimes. Non-compliance with its own internal provisions has resulted in an institution without
independence from other branches of the government and other political actors. In addition, the
fact that almost all of the public prosecutors have been appointed without security of tenure and
can be removed at will, make them particularly vulnerable to improper interferences from
superior authorities, and other external pressures, affecting the autonomy of their functions.
Similarly, appointments to judicial offices, ranging from the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ) to
the lower courts, are predominantly based on political criteria. The majority of judges are
appointed on temporary provisional terms and are susceptible to external pressures, since a
Judicial Commission of the STJ, characterized by clear political tendencies, can remove them at
will. Furthermore, even the minority of judges who in theory enjoy security of tenure can in
practice be suspended from office without any specific accusation or legal procedure having been
initiated against them. The emblematic case of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni illustrates this
situation. The “titular” (i.e. permanent) Judge Afiuni was arrested in her office by the police and
subjected to an arbitrary criminal procedure that ended with the deprivation of her liberty. She
was targeted for ordering that a pre-trial detainee be released on bail, citing among other things
a recommendation for release that had been issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention. The then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez Frías expressly demanded, on national
television and radio, the detention of Judge Afiuni. During the time of her imprisonment, while
she was placed together with ordinary criminal convicts, Judge Afiuni was a victim of inhuman
and cruel treatment. The implicit messages sent by her case gave rise to the so-called “Afiuni
Effect” whereby the rest of the judiciary are wary of finding against the government for fear of
similar reprisals, with devastating consequences for the independent administration of justice in
The report also notes the restrictions imposed by the State on the legal profession. For instance,
the State has improperly interfered in the Bar Associations, through suspension of the internal
elections of their executive bodies, and forced substitution of procedures imposed by the
electoral authorities of the Government. The State has also attempted to impose appointments
of members of the board of directors of the Bar Association of Caracas.
A judiciary characterized by the lack of independence, as in Venezuela, cannot effectively fulfil
its role in maintaining the rule of law. Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin
America, and indeed in the world. The incidence of impunity – cases in which no-one is held
criminally responsible - in such cases amounts to 95 per cent, reaching 98 per cent in cases
related to human rights violations. Likewise, the administration of justice is prevented by
external pressures from fulfilling its duty of to protect people from abuses of government power.
Indeed, the justice system is itself being abused, made to serve as a mechanism for the
persecution of political opponents and dissidents, and other critics of the political system in the
country, including political, peasant and union leaders, human rights defenders, and students.
The publication of this report in May 2014 (originally published in Spanish) coincides with a
situation of acute social and political unrest in Venezuela, where significant social protest has
been taking place since February 2014. According to figures provided by official and non-official
sources, the number of persons detained in connection with the protests so far amounts to some
2 500 people. At the time of publication, 100 people are still detained, around 1 200 people have
been criminally prosecuted resulting in a number of judicially imposed restrictions on their liberty
and freedoms. At least 42 people have died in the context of the protests, among which are 38
civilians, and 4 members of law enforcement and security agencies. According to documented
cases, excessive use of force is one of the reasons for some of these deaths, which may amount
to extrajudicial killings. In this context, the participation of armed groups of civilians acting with
acquiescence, protection, and even coordination with the law enforcement agencies of the State
is particularly serious. In addition, at least 14 cases of alleged torture or other cruel inhuman or
degrading treatment or excessive use of force against detainees, by members of law
enforcement and security agencies, have been recorded to date.
Although the Office of the General Attorney has investigated some of these cases, and has in
fact detained several law enforcement officials, no substantial progress in the investigations of
these cases has been reported to date.
The current situation in Venezuela demonstrates the consequences of the absence of an
independent judiciary capable of guaranteeing the right of every person to participate in peaceful
protests without becoming a victim of criminalization or repression. Indeed, the system of justice
itself has functioned as a mechanism to criminalize the civil protest, by indicting 1 200 detained
people without evidence of their participation in any criminal act. Additionally, the judiciary has
not made any significant progress in the punishment of those responsible for the violation of
human rights involving the repression of recent protest by law enforcement agencies, and armed
groups of civilians protected by these agencies.
This report hopes to contribute to the strengthening of a democratic State, respectful of the rule
of law with a truly autonomous and genuine justice system, embodied by independent and
impartial judges committed to and capable of discharging their duties. It aims to ensure the
effectiveness of the right of access to justice and due process of law, and the protection of all
human rights in general for all people under the jurisdiction of the State of Venezuela. It strives
for a judiciary capable of effectively exercising its functions of control over the excesses of
Strengthening the Rule of Law in Venezuela | 7
organs of the public power. The road map to follow is not only written in the Constitution of
Venezuela, but also recognized in international human rights instruments and in the
jurisprudence of international and regional human rights mechanisms. Consequently, we hope
that the recommendations formulated by the ICJ in this report will assist the State and civil
society of Venezuela in the realization of justice and the rule of law as a shared objective.
Geneva, May 2014
Este es el sistema de justicia que impera en Venezuela, un país en las garras de un régimen represivo. Sin embargo, a pesar de los contundentes testimonios internacionales de este tipo, los líderes políticos latinoamericanos se han hecho de la vista gorda y le siguen dando apoyo al abusivo gobierno venezolano. Muchos de estos líderes, cómo es el caso de los presidentes Ortega, Castro, Morales, Kirchner, Mujica y el ex-presidente Lula, así como los secretarios Generales de UNASUR y OEA, Samper e Insulza, han recibido favores de este régimen y han vendido sus principios (quienes los tenían), para apoyar el abuso de poder que existe en Venezuela desde 1999.