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Venezuela: Criminal Law Forum prepared to put up a fight

By Veneconomy

27.06.05 | That the rule of law does not exist in Venezuela is already a fait accompli. Hugo Chávez’ regime has been steadily encroaching on it with repressive legislation and its iron control of institutions and the branches of government.

Despite this situation, there are still people with sufficient valor who oppose this onward march of authoritarianism, arbitrariness, and illegality. Some of them have joined foces in the Venezuelan Criminal Law Forum, a group of well-known Venezuelan lawyers and jurists. This Form has hit the headlines once again, this time on account of a motion it is about to file before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice requesting it to annul the partial amendment to the Criminal Code promulgated at the beginning of 2005.

By taking this step, the Criminal Law Forum is demonstrating that it is serious about the crusade it is undertaking to correct the manifold irregularities in the system for applying justice in Venezuela. At the beginning of June, the Criminal Law Forum made public a report that documents the worrisome state of Venezuela’s Judiciary, where the great absentee is the rule of law. This report highlights how the Attorney General’s Office has been systematically favoring the persecution of opponents to President Hugo Chávez’ regime by bringing criminal charges against them via a network of public prosecutors, “serving secondary interests,” that has been put in charge of the cases against individuals who are viewed as being opponents of the government. So it is that, according to this report, the cases of 400 people who have been charged on political grounds are being handled by 10 public prosecutors out of a total of 1,200 and have been shared out among only nine judges.

This Monday, June 27, the Criminal Law Forum is to file a motion before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice for it to annul the current Criminal Code on the grounds that it violates a series of constitutional guarantees, among them the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and freedom. The Forum describes the Code as “repressive, contradictory, draconian, and reactionary.” It also highlights the fact that it is clearly intended to punish political dissidence, free protest, and the expressing of ideas and opinions. The members of the Criminal Law Forum argue that the mere omission of the explanatory statement from the text of the amended Code is more than enough for it to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, given that this violates Article 208 of the Constitution and prevents an evaluation of the Code’s objectives, scopes and viability, since the postulates that inspired those who drafted the text are lacking. On top of that there are the amendments themselves, which make the Code much more repressive when it comes to the freedoms of the individual, and which were pushed through parliament by the government-coallition majority, amidst punches and blows, using its “steamroller” tactics and with the totally undemocratic argument, brilliantly propounded by one of the government’s most battle-hardened deputies, that they have “the majority and because they want to.”

These are just two gems from the profusion of illegalities, arbitrary provisions, and absuridities contained in the Bolivarian laws and the regime’s system of justice, all of which are focused on consolidating control and repression in the fashion of the so-called 21st Century Socialism proclaimed by the Hugo Chávez administration.

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