Monday, June 26, 2017

A look inside Venezuela's military courts

Americas Quarterly has this vivid story about the use of military courts to try civilians in Venezuela. Excerpt:
This has grave consequences for defendants. Lawyers familiar with Venezuela’s military court system say that it operates under different rules than civilian courts, and puts detainees at a clear disadvantage. For a start, the judges are military officers picked by the Ministry of Defense, and so depend on the executive branch for their jobs. The prosecutors tend to be officers of lower military rank than the judges, and are therefore unlikely to feel free to make independent decisions, said Ali Daniels, a legal expert at the Venezuelan NGO Acceso a la Justicia
Private lawyers are allowed to represent detainees, but they’re often denied access to police depositions, which are the basis for accusations against their clients. When they can see depositions, they are not allowed to get copies of them. 
“It's a form of intimidation,” Daniels said. “They try to make every step so hard that you eventually want to give up.” 
In many cases, the government has done little to present its legal case against demonstrators. In [Carlos] Ramírez’s case, the military judge granted the prosecution 45 more days to find additional evidence. The defense, however, is hamstrung, since they don’t know the exact contents of the testimony they are challenging. The declaration read at Ramírez’s hearing has not been made public or available to his lawyers, said Pedro Troconez, one of the lawyers from Barquisimeto, who later filed a complaint to be allowed onto Ramírez’s case.

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