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Message from OAS Secretary General on Venezuela

  May 8, 2017

There are elements of dictatorships that are unmistakable. Today I must refer to one more in Venezuela: the passing of civilians to military justice.

Venezuela´s civic-military regime represents the worst of every dictatorship. That includes tyrannical control over political freedoms and the basic guarantees of the people, the elimination of the powers of the branches of government of popular representation, political prisoners and torture, starting with the armed collectives, a kind of fascist blackshirts, with orders to attack civilians during protests.

The accusations of military prosecutors to civilians is absolute nonsense in juridical terms.

In Venezuela, the rule of law does not exist even in appearance.

The accusations of crimes of vilification and instigation to rebellion, as well as other categories of a similar nature, are part of a reactionary discourse devoid of legal grounds applied against demonstrators. The reality is that they simply serve the purpose of depriving peaceful protesters of their freedom.

When a government considers that its people are a threat to its continuity it is because it is a government whose strategy is to continue without the people and on the basis of the use of force.

This constitutes a new violation of the Constitution, which in its article 261 says clearly that:

“The commission of common crimes, human rights violations and crimes against humanity shall be judged by the courts of the ordinary jurisdiction. Military courts jurisdiction is limited to offenses of a military nature.”

Civilians in the states of Zulia, Carabobo and Falcón are being deprived of their freedom and subjected to military justice, whose chain of command begins with General in Chief Vladimir Padrino López, Supreme Authority of Military Justice; continues with General Jorge Timaure Tapia, Chair of the Military Court; Captain Siria Venero de Guerrero, Military Attorney General; and Brigadier General Oscar Gil Arias, Military Public Defender.

The group of people who hold power in Venezuela has no right to inflict the harm and damage it is causing on the country and the hemisphere.

This chain of command has no right to persecute, has no right to imprison, to intimidate and ultimately, destroy the nation of Venezuela and to destabilize the region, shielding itself with fantastic imaginary conspiracies and neglecting its responsibilities. This dictatorial criminality of applying military justice to civilians will not have impunity.

We have reached a point from which there is no other return than that of immediate general elections, so the people of Venezuela can express themselves and return democracy to the country.

Judging civilians according to military justice violates all the basic principles of democracy and human rights. In yet another authoritarian act, the regime is again assailing sovereignty and democracy in Venezuela, thereby losing more and more legitimacy.

No civilian, not even ordinary criminals, can be subjected to the decision of a court that is specifically designed to try military personnel for acts committed during their service. The executive is trying to bring political prisoners to military justice to illegitimately manipulate the decisions taken there, subject them to its interests and keep them silenced and far from public life.

Similarly, manipulating military codes to force their application on civil cases is to distort and attack the functions of the military and its servants, forcing them to assume powers that are not theirs.

The basic right and guarantees of due process no longer exist in Venezuela from the moment a civilian is forced to appear before a military court. There is also no right to defense, which we have long seen languishing with measures such as the prison sentence of Leopoldo López.

I have said it in the past and today it is more than appropriate to reiterate it: in Venezuela, the rule of law is dead.

The regime violates its Constitution, blocks a judicial system that paradoxically is allied with it and also blocks any possibility of decision from the Public Ministry, a state institution that has had the courage to try to safeguard the Magna Carta in the face of the last onslaught of the regime.

The governments of Latin America have experienced this in the past, we have fought against impunity and we have said "Never again" to dictatorship and repression. From the OAS we have generated mechanisms to preserve and protect democracy in each and every member state. We cannot remain silent in the face of such obvious abuse of the basic human rights of Venezuelans.

Reference: E-039/17