The judges and prosecutors of Venezuela have had a “very important role” in serious human rights violations against opponents of the government of Nicolás Maduro, according to a report by a UN mission released Thursday that describes a “deep erosion” of judicial independence in the country.
In its second report, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela details “how the deficiencies of the justice system have gone hand in hand with a pattern of serious human rights violations and legal crimes. international policy in the context of a State policy to silence, discourage and stifle opposition to the government since 2014 “.
“In the midst of Venezuela’s deep human rights crisis, the independence of the judiciary has been seen deeply eroded, which has endangered its function of imparting justice and safeguarding individual rights, “said Marta Valiñas, president of the mission, quoted in a statement.
The experts, Valiñas told reporters in Geneva, have “reasonable grounds to believe that, instead of providing protection to victims (…), the Venezuelan judicial system has had a significant role in repression government to opponents of the government. “
The mission was created by the UN Human Rights Council in 2019 to investigate alleged human rights violations against opponents of which the Maduro government is accused.
The report establishes that important actors of the Venezuelan executive, including Maduro himself, have exercised a important influence on the judicial system from the country.
“According to our latest investigation, there are reasonable grounds to believe that due to intensifying political pressure, judges and prosecutors have played, through their acts and omissions, an important role in serious human rights violations and crimes committed by various state actors in Venezuela, “Valiñas said in the statement.
The Mission indicated that it conducted “177 interviews, many of them with actors from the Venezuelan justice system (…).”
It also carried out an “extensive analysis of thousands of pages of judicial files and other official documents”, and of “183 arrests of actual opponents or received from the government “between 2014 and August 2021, and documented” the irregularities that cloud all stages of the criminal process. “
Torture and illegal detentions
The judges “ordered the preventive detention as a routine and not exceptional measure”, “they maintained the detention and the criminal charges based on evidence that did not indicate criminal acts or demonstrate the participation of the person”, and “gave the appearance of legality to the illegal detentions issuing arrest warrants retroactively. “
On their side, the prosecutors “presented evidence contaminated by torture, which in turn was admitted by judges as evidence”
“In some of the cases examined, the Judges also did not protect victims of torture by ordering them to return to the places of detention where the torture allegedly occurred. “
Mission member Francisco Cox said that the “overwhelming majority” of the violations of the rights of opponents that have been documented “have not generated an investigation, prosecution or trial of those who allegedly committed them.”
Among the cases that the mission reviewed are those it documented in 2020 that “involve State intelligence forces that subjected detained to short-term enforced disappearances, torture, including sexual violence, and extrajudicial executions “.
In this sense, the report highlights the case of the opposition Fernando Albán, “who died after falling into the void from the tenth floor while he was detained at the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) in 2015.”
He also mentions that of Rafael Acosta Arévalo, a military officer who “fainted and died in a courtroom in Caracas with obvious signs of having been tortured in 2018, “and Juan Pablo Pernalete, a student who” died after a tear gas grenade struck his chest at close range during a demonstration in Caracas in 2017. “
Venezuela, ruled by Maduro since 2013, lives a social and economic debacle which, according to the latest UN update, has forced 6 million people to leave the country in recent years.
With the mediation of Norway, the Maduro government and the opposition led by Juan Guaidó, recognized as president in charge by fifty countries, began in August a process of political negotiation in Mexico to get Venezuela out of the crisis.