30 July 2009 An independent United Nations human rights expert today described the situation of justice in Venezuela as “worrying,” citing political interference with the work of judges and prosecutors in the South American nation.
Leandro Despouy, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, expressed particular concern over the removal of some provisional judges and prosecutors, without cause, without procedure and without effective judicial recourse.
“The right of every person to justice should include the existence of independent and impartial judges, and for this, the stability of judges is an essential element,” Mr. Despouy said in a news release.
He cited the case of Judge Alicia Torres, who says she was pressured by a superior to prohibit the head of the Globovisión television channel, Guillermo Zuloaga Núñez, from leaving the country and was dismissed after she refused to do so.
According to media reports, prosecutors have accused Mr. Zuloaga of usury and conspiracy to commit a crime – accusations stemming from the recent seizure of 24 new vehicles on his property. Mr. Zuloaga denies any wrongdoing, saying the accusations are politically motivated, and that President Hugo Chavez is using prosecutors and judges to bring trumped-up charges against prominent opponents.
Mr. Despouy highlighted the need to respect and apply the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which sets out, among other matters, that “governments will guarantee that lawyers can perform all their professional functions without intimidations, obstacles, harassments or undue interferences.”
The Special Rapporteur, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, serves in an unpaid and independent capacity.
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