Press Release

IACHR Rejects a Set of Recent Decisions by the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela That Threaten Democratic Institutions and Fundamental Freedoms

June 27, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) emphatically rejected the set of recent decisions by the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) of Venezuela that threaten democratic institutions and jeopardize fundamental freedoms and human rights. The IACHR also called for constitutional mechanisms to be put in motion to re-establish the rule of law. 

The IACHR has been engaged in close, continuous monitoring of the human rights situation in the country and the constant deterioration of the rule of law there in recent years. It is particularly concerned by the grave institutional crisis caused by the interference of the Office of the President in the other branches of government. The IACHR has also noted that judicial independence has been compromised by magistrates of the SCJ being appointed with no regard for the pre-established processes, and by the fact that a high number of judges are occupying their positions provisionally. 

Likewise, the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression have documented the closure of public spaces to exercise the right to freedom of expression and the right to protest, two forms of freedom that enable democratic rule and are part of any electoral process. The situation has worsened in recent weeks due to a series of arrests of journalists and citizens who have spoken out on social media, acts of aggression against journalists who cover protests, the blocking of online media outlets, and the shutting down of one of the country’s main subscription television broadcasters. 

Given this context, it is particularly concerning that instead of guaranteeing the conventionality, constitutionality, and legality of the functioning of the other branches of government, the SCJ has instead issued decisions that ignore the constitutional mandates that should be overseen by the National Assembly, dismissed the internal democratic processes of two opposition political parties, and spread distrust in the democratic rules of play in response to a possible parliamentary election. 

On June 5, the SCJ issued Ruling 0068, in which it once again stated that the National Assembly has been continually in contempt of court. It also invoked the legal concept of “legislative omission” and thus declared itself competent to appoint the chairs of the National Electoral Council (CNE), which the Venezuelan Constitution stipulates is the responsibility of the legislative branch. On 12 June, through Ruling 0070, it appointed the chairs of the CNE, who include two SCJ magistrates. On June 15, the SCJ issued Ruling 0071, which suspended the current Board of Directors of the Acción Democrática political party and replaced them with an ad hoc board to restructure the party. The ruling authorized this board to use the political party’s electoral card, logo, symbols, emblems, colors, and any other related concepts. The following day, June 16, the SCJ issued Ruling 0072, which had the same effects on the Movimiento Primero Justicia political party.

The IACHR has been informed that the boards of directors of political parties exercise significant decision-making power regarding parties’ overall management, the nomination system, and the list of candidates who may compete in elections. As a consequence, appointing these boards should be an internal party process.   

The IACHR is particularly concerned that the SCJ has appointed the electoral arbitrator when the Constitution establishes that it is the National Assembly that should do so, and has issued rulings that have affected the two political parties to which the best-known leaders of the opposition belong. In the IACHR’s opinion, decisions of this sort prevent the democratic process from unfolding freely. Reducing democratic spaces by disregarding the internal processes of political parties whose functioning is protected by the right to association and to participation in government undermines confidence in political elections in Venezuela and creates new obstacles to overcoming the institutional crisis that has had such a significant impact on the enjoyment of human rights in the country.

Finally, the IACHR wishes to once again express its conviction that moving beyond the current political crisis and recovering democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela must be a peaceful process that is implemented within constitutional channels and with full respect for fundamental freedoms (the freedom of expression, assembly, and association) while ensuring that all human rights are once again respected.

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. 151/20