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Venezuela must ensure judicial independence as Governmental pressure on judges grows, says UN expert

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GENEVA (8 February 2019) – Venezuela must take all necessary steps to guarantee that judges, magistrates and prosecutors are able to work in complete independence in order to ensure human rights in the country, says the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán.

“I urge all State institutions to respect, promote and guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, so it can carry out its duties in a safe environment and resolve cases without restrictions, influence, incentives, pressure, threats or wrongful interference, either direct or indirect, from whatever source or for whatever reason,” says the UN expert.

“In the current of period of instability, the lack of appropriate numbers of prosecutors and career magistrates, as well as huge provisional and short-term appointments, severely undermines the independence of the judicial system,” he added.

Mr. García-Sayán expressed concern about the political pressure on judges in the context of recent demonstrations in the country. “Decisions of members of the judiciary have been part of the measures by the Government depriving hundreds of people –including minors– in the context of public protests.”

The UN Special Rapporteur also expressed concern about a number of measures imposed by the country’s Supreme Court at the instigation of the Attorney General Tarek Saab, against Juan Guaidó, the President of the National Assembly (Congress) and interim President of the country declared by the Congress. These include a travel ban preventing Mr. Guaidó from leaving Venezuela and the freezing of his financial assets.

“The evidence suggests that the measures against Mr. Guaidó have not been adopted in accordance with constitutional requirements, normal legal procedures and international human rights standards,” said Mr. García-Sayán.

“Respecting and guaranteeing the independence and impartiality of justice is an essential pillar for protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” the expert stressed.

The expert has already communicated his concerns to the Government of Venezuela.

END

Mr. Diego García-Sayán took up his functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in December 2016. Mr. García-Sayán was formerly a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for two consecutive terms. During his tenure, he was elected Vice-President of the Court (2008-2009) and President of the Court for two consecutive terms (2009-2013). He has long-standing experience working on human rights issues in a variety of settings, including for the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Venezuela

For more information and media requests, please contact: Mr. Stefano Sensi (+41 22 917 9237 / ssensi@ohchr.org) or write to SRindependenceJL@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact: Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 /  jlaurence@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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