2021-09-17 00:15:18 Venezuela’s Judicial System Abets Repression, Says U.N. Rights Panel
Venezuela’s Judicial System Abets Repression, Says U.N. Rights Panel
Ms. Valias stated that the panel is still investigating the crimes identified in that report, but that the second report, which it will present to the Human Rights Council next week, will focus on the workings of Venezuela’s judicial system and will include a detailed analysis of 183 detentions.
Venezuelan authorities refused panel members entry and did not respond to any of the 17 letters they sent to the government requesting information over the past year. The panel’s findings were based on 177 interviews with current and former judges, prosecutors, and other members of the judicial system, as well as lawyers representing victims of abuse. They also combed through thousands of pages of legal documents, including arrest and search warrants.
The panel interviewed 86 judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers, and nearly all — 98.2 percent — reported that political cases were not investigated or prosecuted in accordance with the law.
The panel stated that judges and prosecutors were given instructions on how to proceed and frequently appeared to have played “key roles” in covering up wrongdoing, such as enabling arbitrary detention through the use of unjustified arrest warrants, lengthy pretrial detentions, and criminal charges based on illegally obtained or falsified evidence, including evidence obtained through torture.
Many of the defendants in the 183 prosecutions examined by the panel claimed to have been tortured or subjected to cruel treatment, including sexual violence, and 67 of the defendants appeared in court with obvious signs of mistreatment.
The panel stated that “the actions and omissions of judges hearing torture allegations had devastating consequences on victims, including continued torture and deteriorating health.” One detainee had a miscarriage as a result of torture after a judge returned her to the custody of the military counterintelligence agency, which she claimed was abusing her.
However, the panel concluded that resistance to political interference by judges, prosecutors, and lawyers is also risky. More than half of the defense lawyers who responded to a questionnaire said they had faced threats and harassment, and nearly half of the former judges and prosecutors contacted by the panel had fled the country for safety reasons.