27 December 2011
GENEVA - Three United Nations independent experts* on Tuesday expressed their deep shock and concern at new and alarming developments in the case of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni Mora.
“We are very concerned by the extension of the measure of preventative detention issued against Judge Afiuni Mora,” the experts said. On 13 December 2011, a judge granted the request of the Public Prosecutor to extend the measure of house arrest against Judge Afiuni by two more years.
“Honestly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand what Judge Afiuni is living through,” said the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Juan Méndez. “The substitutive preventive measure of house arrest imposed a few months ago seemed to be a positive step,” said Mr. Méndez. “However, this latest decision represents an unacceptable worsening of her situation, particularly in light of her delicate physical and mental state.”
“It is unbelievable that the arbitrary detention of Judge Afiuni continues to be extended and it is imperative that she is released immediately,” stated Mr. El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which issued an opinion in 2010 declaring Judge Afiuni Mora’s detention arbitrary. “Furthermore, it is unclear what would in this case be the “serious grounds” which, in conformity with Venezuela law, must be present in order for a measure of personal coercion of this kind to be extended,” added the expert.
Judge Afiuni, who has already been the subject of various appeals by United Nations experts, has been deprived of her liberty since 10 December 2009, when she was detained for ordering the release of Mr. Eligio Cedeño, in accordance with a decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
“It is significant that the decision to extend the detention of Judge Afiuni was made - in the absence of the parties - by a judge who has been challenged by Judge Afiuni and her lawyers several times for his alleged lack of impartiality,” observed Ms. Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. “As the on-going detention of Judge Afiuni shows, the independence of the judiciary is severely compromised in Venezuela. Judicial actors fear the same fate as Judge Afiuni if they dare to act against governmental interests,” concluded the Rapporteur.
(*) Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mr. El Hadji Malick Sow; Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms. Gabriela Knaul; and Special Rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan Méndez.
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