Venezuelan Court Won’t Bow to UN Call for Leopoldo López Release
EspañolOn Thursday, Judge Susana Barreiros ruled against jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, denying his release from prison. Barreiros echoed the words of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, arguing that Venezuela is a sovereign nation and will not accept the intervention of the United Nations into its internal affairs.
According to Barreiros, López’s rights to due process have not been violated, and the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention does not obligate Venezuelan authorities to take action of any kind.
López’s attorney, Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, criticized the judge for dismissing the UN recommendation, and claimed her ruling violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In a press conference held on Friday, Lopez’s defense team said they will challenge the ruling in the Court of Appeals in a hearing scheduled for Monday, and if necessary, they will bring the case before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.
Gutiérrez said he will report the “absolutely reprehensible” failure of the Venezuelan judicial system to the United Nations and international community. He also claimed Barreiros “openly violates the constitutions, Venezuelan law, and international human-rights agreements.”
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a universal mechanism that applies to all countries in the world. The defense argues that by ignoring the Working Group’s opinion, the Venezuelan court is ignoring an arm of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. This office operates under the purview of the UN General Assembly, of which Venezuela is an active member.
“Venezuela is part of the UN Human Rights Commission, and voted in favor of three of the five officials who make up this commission. All of the pronouncements issued by this body have to be directly accepted by the Venezuelan state. With this decision, Venezuela turns its back on the international community,” Gutiérrez said.
Among the primary responsibilities of the working group is “to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or otherwise inconsistently with the relevant international standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or in the relevant international legal instruments accepted by the States concerned.”
Systemic Violations of Individual Rights
On Tuesday, November 11, Leopoldo López’s defense team filed a motion with the Venezuelan Court of Appeals to have Barreiros removed from the case. Hearings had been suspended for more than a month in an effort to avoid acting on the UN request, according to López’s attorneys.
During Friday’s press conference, López’s wife, Lilian Tintori, said that Judge Barreiros’s failure to abide by the UN ruling represented a violation of the constitution and international agreements.
“We push forward stronger than ever. We are confident this is going to change. We are going to win. There is no way my husband will not be released, because every Venezuelan knows he is innocent, including the Chavistas.”
Tintori added that she believes her husband has been kidnapped, rather than imprisoned, since he has not been allowed to have visitors of any kind for a month. She concluded her statement by saying the Venezuelan government will eventually comply with the UN decision, and that not only her husband, but all political prisoners, will be granted their freedom.
Claims of Torture
During the press conference, Gutiérrez once again raised the issue of the demeaning manner in which López, Daniel Ceballos, and other political prisoners like Enzo Scarano and Salvatore Lucchese, have been treated in Ramo Verde military jail.
According to the prisoners’ wives, Ramo Verde officials threw human excrement at the detainees on Saturday, October 24. In forthcoming judicial proceedings, the defense will present samples, verified using biological testing, taken from the feces thrown at the prisoners.
— Voluntad Popular (@VoluntadPopular) November 14, 2014
The opposition leader López has been in prison for the last 269 days, accused of public instigation, conspiracy, vandalism, and arson over his role in protests that took place in Caracas on February 12 that left three people dead.
His attorneys claim he has been held prisoner without a single piece of evidence presented against him, while the courts have dismissed testimony and evidence that support his innocence.
Elisa Vásquez contributed to this report.