IACHR Expresses Concern Over Reform of Organic Law of Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela

February 17, 2022

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over the reform of the Organic Law of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) in Venezuela and urged the State to adopt urgent, appropriate measures to re-establish the independence of the Venezuelan judiciary.

The National Assembly approved the reform of the Organic Law of the TSJ on January 18, 2022. This reform reduced the number of judges sitting on the TSJ from 32 to 20 and fails to prohibit the reelection of magistrates whose terms are about to expire. The new law also modifies the composition of the committee that nominates candidates for the TSJ, establishing that the majority of its members will be congresspeople rather than representatives from other sectors of society.

In response, the IACHR noted once again that reelection jeopardizes judicial independence, given that magistrates seeking reelection may seek to obtain the support of the authority in charge of these decisions through their actions, or that their behavior may be perceived in this way by those involved in legal proceedings. Furthermore, in the IACHR's opinion, increasing the number of congresspeople in the nominating committee has the effect of deepening the institutional crisis, given that the 2020 parliamentary elections did not meet the minimum conditions needed for them to be considered free or fair.

With regard to the latter point, the IACHR emphasized that mechanisms to promote openness, participation, and transparency during the election process for magistrates helps increase public certainty around the integrity and suitability of those who are appointed to these roles, thus increasing citizens' confidence in the objective nature of the process.

The IACHR agrees with the statement of the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which is backed by the United Nations, that "instead of providing protection to victims of human rights violations and crimes, the justice system has played a significant role in the State's repression of Government opponents." In response, the IACHR urged the State to adopt reforms that truly seek to consolidate the TSJ's independence from the Office of the President and rebuild a system of checks and balances.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 034/22

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