A new report states the Venezuelan justice system does not contain adequate systemic safeguards to guarantee judicial independence and cites the trial of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni as emblematic of the situation in general. Describing her trial as being characterised by multiple violations of due process and other human rights, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) points to an urgent need for reform of the Venezuelan judiciary.
The 28-page IBAHRI trial observation report, entitled The Execution of Justice: The criminal trial of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni, details a number of specific irregularities in the trial of Judge Afiuni, including:
- her being arrested without a warrant and the late President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez Frías appearing on national television immediately afterwards calling for her imprisonment;
- her being subjected to grievous physical abuse in the female maximum security prison Instituto Nacional de Orientación Femenina between December 2009 and February 2011, amounting to violations of her right to life, liberty, personal integrity and adequate conditions of detention;
- the failure of the public prosecutor to produce sufficient evidence at any stage of the trial in order to substantiate the allegations against her; and
- the frequent procedural delays resulting in a criminal process that has been drawn out over four years, violating Judge Afiuni’s right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.
IBAHRI Co-Chair Sternford Moyo commented,
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