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Thursday, 8 July 2010 - Strasbourg Final edition
Venezuela, in particular the case of Maria Lourdes Afiuni

European Parliament resolution of 8 July 2010 on Venezuela, in particular the case of Maria Lourdes Afiuni

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Venezuela, in particular those of 11 February 2010, 7 May 2009, 23 October 2008 and 24 May 2007,

–  having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the separation and independence of powers form the basis of any democratic and constitutional State,

B.  whereas, on 10 December 2009, Maria Lourdes Afiuni, ‘Judge of Control’ of Caracas, acting under Venezuelan laws and following an opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, granted parole (under severe restrictions, including passport withdrawal) to Eligio Cedeño, who had been in pre-trial detention since February 2007,

C.  whereas the pre-trial detention period is limited to two years under Venezuelan law, and whereas Judge Afiuni, in issuing the decision, upheld fundamental rights protected under Venezuelan and international law,

D.  whereas Judge Afiuni was immediately arrested without charge at the court by officials of the DISIP (Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention) and was transferred on 12 December 2009 to the INOF (Instituto Nacional de Orientación Femenina), a maximum security prison, where she is still being held more than six months later, under conditions which continue to endanger her physical and mental well-being as up to 24 inmates were convicted by her for crimes such as homicide, drug trafficking and kidnapping; whereas, during her detention, she has been subjected to insults, threats, verbal and physical attacks and attempts on her life,

E.  whereas on 11 December 2009, President Hugo Chávez, in a speech broadcast on TV, called her a bandit, asking the Attorney General to apply the maximum penalty and even urging the National Assembly to pass a new law to aggravate sentences for this type of behaviour, to be enforced retroactively,

F.  whereas Article 26 of the Venezuelan Constitution states that the judiciary should be autonomous and independent and that the President of the Republic of Venezuela is responsible for guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary,

G.  whereas, following the President's statements against Judge Afiuni, she was charged with abuse of authority, corruption, conspiracy and being accessory to an escape, and whereas, although the prosecutor has shown that she had not received money and that there was therefore no evidence of corruption, she is still in prison,

H.  whereas Judge Afiuni's case has prompted a string of reports, resolutions and statements condemning the Venezuelan authorities and voicing solidarity with her, as lawyers and magistrates from around the world, NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have expressed their concern regarding her situation, stating that she is jailed because of her integrity and fight for the independence of the judiciary, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has requested precautionary measures to ensure her personal safety,

I.  whereas Judge Afiuni's case is not an isolated attack by the political authorities on the judiciary, with some judges having been dismissed and others having chosen to go into exile,

J.  whereas the deterioration of democracy in Venezuela is manifest in other areas as well, particularly with regard to freedom of press, including on the internet, which has been constantly attacked by the government and against which a wide range of measures have been taken, including the shutting down of newspapers, radio stations, websites and television channels,

K.  whereas freedom of the media is of vital importance to democracy and respect for basic freedoms, given the media's fundamental role in guaranteeing the freedom to express one's opinions and ideas, duly respecting the rights of minorities, including political opposition groups, and contributing to effectively involving individuals in the democratic processes, thereby enabling free and fair elections to take place,

L.  whereas, with a view to the parliamentary elections due to be held on 26 September 2010, the National Electoral Council has, at the request of the government, modified the constituency boundaries for the election of the 167 Members of the National Assembly, changes that affect up to 80% of the states governed by the opposition,

M.  whereas measures such as arbitrary confiscation and expropriation, involving more than 760 enterprises since 2005, some of them affecting EU interests, undermine the basic social and economic rights of citizens,

N.  having regard to the tense political situation in Venezuela, reflected in the harassment, threats, intimidation and political and criminal persecution directed at the democratic opposition, its representatives, its democratically elected mayors and governors, the student movement, members of the army and the judiciary, opponents of Chavez official policy, journalists and the media, which has led to the imprisonment of many of them for political reasons,

1.  Deplores the attacks on the independence of the judiciary; voices its concern at the arrest of Judge Afiuni and considers it a violation of her basic personal rights and a very serious threat to the independence of the judiciary, which is the basic pillar of the rule of law;

2.  Calls for her release and calls on the Venezuelan Government to be committed to the values of the rule of law, facilitating a fair and rapid trial, with all the necessary legal guarantees;

3.  Expresses its concern at the conditions of detention of Judge Afiuni, which pose a threat to her physical and psychological integrity, and calls on the prison authorities strictly and immediately to apply the measures and recommendations advocated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 11 January 2010 regarding Ms Afiuni's conditions of detention;

4.  Condemns the public statements made by the President of the Republic of Venezuela, insulting and denigrating the judge, demanding a maximum sentence and requesting a modification of the law to enable a more severe penalty to be imposed; considers that these statements are aggravating the circumstances of her detention and constitute an attack on the independence of the judiciary by the President of a nation, who should be its first guarantor;

5.  Reminds the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela of its obligation to respect freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of the press and to respect the independence of the judiciary as it is bound to do under its own Constitution and under the different international and regional conventions and charters to which Venezuela is a signatory; believes that the Venezuelan media should guarantee pluralistic coverage of Venezuelan political and social life;

6.  Calls on the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to make representations to the Venezuelan authorities with a view to expressing the EU's concern regarding respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in this South American country and to firmly upholding the interests and property of citizens and companies from EU Member States;

7.  Points out that, under the Organisation of American States' Inter-American Democratic Charter, in a democracy, in addition to clear and necessary legitimacy of origin, grounded in and obtained at the polls, legitimacy of exercise must also be complied with, and this must be founded on respect for pluralism, the established rules, the constitution in force, the laws and the rule of law as a guarantee of a fully functioning democracy, and this must of necessity include respect for peaceful and democratic political opposition, especially where that opposition has been elected in the polls and enjoys a popular mandate;

8.  Calls on the Venezuelan Government, with a view to the parliamentary elections on 26 September 2010, to respect the rules of democracy and the principles of freedom of expression, assembly, association and election, as well as to invite the European Union and international bodies to observe these elections;

9.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Government and National Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States.

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