Saturday, April 3, 2021

Inter-American Commission statement about Veneuzela's misuse of military courts

 On March 24, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued this press statement:

Given the ruling issued by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) of Venezuela that reaffirmed the jurisdiction of the military criminal jurisdiction over military offenses committed by civilians, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls for the State to definitively abandon the trial of civilians by military courts.

The IACHR learned of judgment Nº. 0246 of the Supreme Court of December 14, 2020 which, although it mentioned inter-American standards to annul a decision of the Tenth Military Court of Control of the Criminal Judicial Circuit of the State of Zulia in favor of two civilians, reaffirmed the possibility that the military criminal jurisdiction could learn about military offenses committed by civilians. In the Commission's opinion, this reasoning does not respond to the absolute nature of the prohibition against trying civilians before the military criminal jurisdiction.  

According to information provided by civil society, from January 1, 2014 to date, at least 870 civilians have been presented before the military jurisdiction; of these people, at least 19 remain deprived of liberty. In 2020, the case of the union leader Rubén González stood out, to whom a Court Martial in Caracas confirmed a sentence of five years and nine months of deprivation of liberty imposed by the Fifth Military Court of the Monagas state . In 2018, the surgeon Iván Marulanda was arrested and presented before military courts in Fort Tiuna, remaining deprived of liberty for more than two years. In 2017, the Supreme Court declared that opposition deputy Gilber Caro did not have parliamentary immunity because he was a substitute deputy, authorizing his arrest and trial before the military criminal jurisdiction for treason. Likewise, the Commission is particularly concerned that the use of the military criminal jurisdiction has intensified during the episodes of protests, as occurred in 2017, when more than 750 civilians were brought before this jurisdiction. 

The IACHR reiterates that, in a democratic rule of law, the military criminal jurisdiction must have a restrictive and exceptional scope and be aimed at the protection of special legal interests, linked to the functions that the law assigns to the military forces. Thus, the trial of civilians should be excluded from the scope of military jurisdiction and the military should only be tried for the commission of crimes or misdemeanors that by their very nature violate the legal rights of the military order. Consequently, it is a priority for the State of Venezuela to adopt the necessary measures, including those of a legislative nature, to adapt its internal legislation, as well as to redirect before the ordinary jurisdiction all judicial cases that should not have been heard by the military criminal jurisdiction in the first place. place.

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