August 11, 2020
For immediate release
The United States condemns the increasingly opaque and capricious actions taken by Maduro’s justice system
Recently, we have heard about a number of cases where defendants, who should be assumed innocent until proven guilty under Venezuelan law, were prevented access to their lawyers for court trials. Scheduled hearings for persons where justice has been denied for more than 3 years were cancelled at the last minute, with no acceptable excuse being given. Others have been taken into custody, held in unsanitary and unsafe conditions compounded by a pandemic, and are routinely denied their basic rights.
The U.S. Department of State’s most recent Human Rights Report (published in March 2020), noted many of the Maduro puppet Courts ongoing violations of basic human rights. These violations continue, and may be escalating under Covid-19. The report noted Venezuelan law requires that detainees be informed promptly of the charges against them, and that defendants have the right to consult with an attorney. However, there are documented cases where this has not happened. The report further noted that under Venezuelan law, defendants are guaranteed a speedy trial, and a right to their own defense. Defendants also should have the right to question adverse witnesses and present their own witnesses. By law defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. However, these rights are not respected by Venezuelan Courts.
Michele Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), recently raised similar concerns regarding actions taken by the Maduro regime to undermine access to justice. Bachelet’s reportcited the insecurity of tenure for judges, political pressure, and use of military courts as causal factors that significantly undercut judicial independence. OHCHR also highlighted challenges preventing access to justice for victims of human right violations, including manipulation of evidence; intimidation, threats, and reprisals by regime security forces for those seeking justice; and the inability or unwillingness of justice officials to process victims’ claims.
The behavior by Maduro’s puppet Courts is not new. The regime appears intent on using Covid-19 to further obfuscate what they are attempting to pass off as “justice.” It is past time for the international community to stand with the hundreds of political prisoners who have been unjustly kidnapped by the regime, and others who are facing a corrupt and arbitrary judicial system, to demand true justice for Venezuelans and persons of other nationalities who are in the custody or under the authority of the Venezuelan criminal justice system.