Concerns over human rights abuses, torture, and the deprivation of civil liberties in Venezuela were addressed last month in the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) 2020 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities. The preliminary report will determine whether or not a full ICC investigation into human rights abuses in Venezuela will proceed, with results expected in the first half of 2021.
In September, an update was given on the situation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the 45th Session of the Human Rights Council. While it provided evidence of “technical cooperation” and the “exchange of information” on individual cases, the update failed to mention the importance of establishing the separation of powers within Venezuela. The update at the 45th Session also does not mention anything about justice for victims of extrajudicial killing, victims of torture, or the actions of police and security personnel.
“Venezuela’s judiciary is an appendix of the executive branch,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director at Human Rights Watch, to The Economist in 2015. As an extension of the executive branch, the judiciary is therefore vulnerable to extortion, bribery, and intimidation. This was also the subject of a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The issues pertaining to the lack of separation between executive branches and judicial powers date back to Hugo Chavez’s political takeover of Venezuela’s Supreme Court. Countries that claim to uphold the values of human rights yet undermine the separation of powers should be treated with more skepticism by the international community – specifically the UN and ICC.
This is particularly concerning if such countries have claimed to uphold human rights in their constitutions. Venezuela is one such country but it has openly criticized this notion in the past. Upholding the integrity of human rights in international institutions is paramount, however, the process itself is quite slow. Patience is therefore a necessity. While waiting for the preliminary report to be published in order to fully investigate its claims, the international community should concentrate on ensuring that the separation of powers exists in all nations which seek to uphold democracy. This would ensure human rights are further protected through international law.
Fake news, disinformation, and the use of creative narratives that drive stories about Venezuela, both within the republic and around the world, do not help the plight of the average Venezuelan. Indeed, such stories serve to blur the lines between what some think ought to happen and what is actually happening.
A majority of nations recognize Juan Guaido as interim president, while some still support Maduro’s claim to the presidency. However, the integrity and independence of Venezuela should ultimately depend upon the principles enshrined within its constitution. So long as there is no separation of powers, Venezuela will continue to function as a failed state.