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Venezuela: UN expert condemns further sentence against Judge Afiuni, says clearly act of reprisal

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GENEVA (26 March 2019) – A UN human rights expert expressed grave concern at the further five-year jail sentence handed down against Venezuelan Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, condemning it as another act of reprisal against her.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion in 2010 declaring Judge Afiuni Mora’s detention arbitrary.

Judge Afiuni was arrested in 2009 after then-President Hugo Chavez demanded she be imprisoned for 30 years, criticising her for releasing businessman Eligio Cedeño. She had issued that ruling in accordance with a decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In jail, she was ill-treated and refused medical treatment by the authorities.

“It is deplorable that Judge Afiuni continues to be subjected to arbitrary detention, and this latest sentence is clearly another instance of reprisal against her,” said the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers of the UN, Diego García-Sayán. 

Judge Afiuni, who has already been the subject of various appeals by United Nations experts, was held in prison for 14 months. She was granted house arrest for health reasons in 2011, and two years later granted parole with the condition of not leaving the country and not using social media.

The court in Caracas sentenced Judge Afiuni to five years imprisonment for corruption on 21 March 2019. 

The expert said the latest ruling underscored his serious concerns about the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela, the impartiality of judges and prosecutors and the pressures they faced in handling politically sensitive cases.

ENDS

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 (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.

UN Human Rights, country page – Venezuela

For further information and media requests, please contact: Mr. Stefano Sensi (+41 22 917 79237 / srindependencejl@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: 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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