Venezuela - Judge Afiuni - Summary - July 2013

This is further to Law Society letters addressed to the former president of Venezuela, His Excellency, Hugo Chàvez, of June 3, 2010, and January 11, 2012, regarding the Law Society's deep concern over the detention of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni.

Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni was granted a conditional release by the Tribunal 17 de Juicio de Caracas on June 14, 2013. Reports indicate that this conditional release was granted on health grounds, following a request from the Attorney General.

In a letter dated June 3, 2010, the Law Society expressed its concerns related to the December 2009 arrest of Judge Afiuni after she ordered the conditional release of Eligio Cedeño while he was awaiting trial. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had declared Mr. Cedeño's detention arbitrary in September 2009, citing violations of his right to a fair trial. Furthermore, Mr. Cedeño had been in pre-trial detention for nearly three years - a violation of the two-year limit prescribed by Venezuelan law. As a result of Judge Afiuni's order, she was charged with corruption, being an accessory to escape, criminal conspiracy and abuse of power. According to reports, while Judge Afiuni was in prison, she was sexually assaulted, became pregnant and miscarried, which led to her current serious health complications.

In a letter of January 11, 2012, the Law Society wrote again to express continued concern regarding reports that on December 11, 2011, a judge granted a request by the public prosecutor, to extend Judge Afiuni's house arrest by two more years. This decision was condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the UN Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The Law Society is pleased to learn that Judge Afiuni has been conditionally released.

Letter of intervention