Special Coverage: 100th Session of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights

The Human Rights Brief, in collaboration with UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, is proud to feature special coverage of the 100th Session of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights from San Jose, Costa Rica. Check back daily for continuing coverage.

Sydney Pomykata, Marie Soueid, and Michaela Spero are members of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic observing the hearing of Allan R. Brewer Carías v. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The staffs of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic and the Human Rights Brief contributed additional research and editing in Washington, D.C.

Human Rights of Women in the Dominican Republic

IACHR 150th Period of Sessions March 24, 2014 Petitioners for Civil Society Groups in the Dominican Republic
IACHR 150th Period of Sessions
March 24, 2014
Petitioners for Civil Society Groups in the Dominican Republic

Versión española disponible aquí

Commissioners: Rose-Marie Belle Antione, James L. Cavallaro, Felipe González, Emilio Álvarez Icaza, Longoria, Rosa María Ortiz, Tracy Robinson

Petitioners: Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Red Mundial de Mujeres por los derechos Reproductivos (RMMDR), Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina (CIPAF), Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM), Centro de Derechos Reproductivos (CPR), Centro por la justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL), Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe (RSMLAC)

State: Dominican Republic

Petitioners gathered before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Monday, March 24, 2014 to express their concerns about women’s rights in the Dominican Republic. Despite the Dominican Republic’s ratification of the Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Belem Do Para) nearly twenty years ago, Petitioners alleged that Dominican women continue to suffer gender discrimination and gender-based violence, and that Afro-Dominican women frequently suffer worse discrimination. Petitioners from Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Red Mundial de Mujeres por los derechos Reproductivos, Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina, Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los derechos de la Mujer, Centro de Derechos Reproductivos, Centro por la justicia y el Derecho Internacional, and Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe expressed concerns over a woman’s right to freedom from violence, and cited sexual violence as the most blatant form of violence against women.

Petitioners noted that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) saw a 107 percent increase in violence against women in the Dominican Republic, and that the Dominican Republic had the third highest rate of femicides in the region in 2013. Despite noting an alleged twenty percent increase in the domestic violence rate in the Dominican Republic, Petitioners claimed that the Assistant Attorney General found that only four percent of domestic violence cases come to light, and that only two percent of the cases end in a guilty verdict. Aside from violence and discrimination at home, Petitioners suggested that workplace violations are significantly underreported out of fear of joblessness and not knowing where to turn. Petitioners further contend that they had asked the State to revise their labor code to meet International Labour Organization standards that deem sexual harassment as grounds for dismissal, but that nothing had been done yet.

Petitioners also focused on the denial of women’s rights, the State’s full proscription of abortion, HIV stigmas, and alleged practices of forced sterilization, the lack of adequate sexual education, and high maternal mortality rates, which petitioners called a violation of the right to life resulting from lack of recognition of gender equality. Petitioners suggested that high maternal mortality rates reflected deep structural flaws, and that many of the aforementioned issues were related to the systematic discrimination against women vis-à-vis reproductive rights. The Petitioners also expressed concerns over the State’s abortion laws, which entirely prohibit the practice of abortion, and over policies that force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, especially in cases of rape and incest.

The State assured the IACHR that the Dominican Republic is party to some of the most important instruments ensuring the rights of women, including the Convention of Belem Do Para. Concerning domestic legal frameworks, the State cited various state laws including Article 42 of the 2010 Constitution, which ensures personal integrity for all Dominicans, and prohibits both domestic and gender-based violence. The State further assured the Commission that the State had various prevention programs in place to attempt to eradicate all forms of violence against women.

In response, IACHR Commissioner and Rapporteur for the Dominican Republic Rosa María Ortiz asked the parties how the IACHR should reconcile this data, given the dim picture painted by Petitioners and the more positive data shared by the State. Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine agreed that during in-country visits, the Commission witnessed sites where young Afro-Dominican women had less access to healthcare and frequently lived in communes with high rates of teenage pregnancy. Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz further demanded to know more about women’s access to justice, and what steps the government was taking to address women’s issues. Despite negative criticism, the State proclaimed that they were not giving up, and would continue to work toward the promotion and protection of women’s rights in the Dominican Republic. Responding to the Commissioners questions, Petitioners refuted the State’s numbers, proposing that there were only two women’s shelters in the entire Dominican Republic, and that the State allocated only two percent of its budget to women. Although the State presented different numbers, suggesting that the index of murdered women decreased between 2011 and 2013, Petitioners criticized government plans as never going beyond the planning stages, and asked the IACHR to ensure state policies that protect against victimization, cruelty, discrimination, and create exceptions the State’s current abortion ban.

La Corte Interamericana Contempla Cuestión Sobre el Papel las Leyes de Amnistía en el Derecho Internacional

Available in English here

 San José, Costa Rica – Después de un día lleno de testimonios y pericias en la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (Corte IDH, Corte), el caso de Brewer Carías v. Venezuela llegó a su fin con los alegatos finales de los peticionarios, el Estado y la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH, la Comisión). El caso, que implica el proceso penal en Venezuela del disidente político Allan R. Brewer Carías, se centra en la supuesta violación de sus derechos a la protección judicial y a un juicio imparcial e independiente, conforme a los artículos 8(1) y 25 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos (Convención). Durante el testimonio de expertos,  el miércoles cinco de septiembre,  un experto señaló que la Ley Especial de Amnistía emitida el 31 de diciembre de 2007 por el presidente Hugo Chávez debería haber extinguido el caso contra Brewer Carías y que la aplicación discriminatoria de la ley es contraria a las normas internacionales. El gobierno venezolano, sin embargo, sostiene que, debido a la ausencia Brewer Carías del país cuando la ley fue aprobada y el hecho de que el juicio penal contra su persona en Venezuela estaba en curso, la ley de amnistía no estaría cubriendo su caso. Sin embargo, se ha aplicado la ley de amnistía a otras personas cuyo caso se encontraba en la misma postura procesal como el de Brewer Carías. El estado de las leyes de amnistía a nivel internacional no está clara, y si la ley de amnistía de Venezuela cumple con las normas internacionales es un asunto polémico. En virtud del artículo 29 de la Constitución venezolana, sólo se prohíben las amnistías por violaciones de los derechos humanos y crímenes de lesa humanidad.

 Cuando Hugo Chávez regresó al poder después del golpe de estado de abril de 2002 donde fue derrocado brevemente, se había creado una Comisión Parlamentaria Especial para investigar y enjuiciar a los autores del golpe de Estado. Las investigaciones condujeron a la detención, juicio y encarcelamiento de los líderes del golpe así como los que decían no ha participado en el golpe de Estado, incluyendo Brewer Carías. En 2007, mientras que había una decisión pendiente sobre la apelación de Brewer Carías para anular el proceso en su contra, Chávez anunció el Decreto de Ley Especial de Amnistía. La ley despidió efectivamente a todos los cargos contra los participantes acusados ​e investigados por delitos relacionados con el golpe de 2002. A Brewer Carías, sin embargo, se le impidió disfrutar de los mismos beneficios de la ley. El Estado argumentó que, puesto que él no estaba presente en Venezuela para luchar contra los cargos en su contra, no estaba cubierto por la ley de amnistía a pesar de su presencia en el estado durante los primeros años de la investigación y la cooperación con los fiscales. El ex juez y abogado venezolano Jésus Ollarves dio testimonio como experto en la audiencia CIDH el miércoles y declaró que la ley es discriminatoria por naturaleza y, por lo tanto, en contradicción con el derecho internacional. El gobierno venezolano insiste en que la ley no discrimina por motivos prohibidos. En respuesta al testimonio de Ollarves, el Estado acusó a Brewer Carías de ser un fugitivo de Venezuela y dijo que la ley no lo puede cubrir, ya que no se encuentra presente en el país.

Las leyes de amnistía son generalmente polémicas bajo las normas internacionales y son legítimas sólo si se aplican a los delitos que un Estado no tiene obligación internacional de enjuiciar o extraditar para su enjuiciamiento. Tanto la Comisión como la Corte han declarado que las leyes de amnistía que concedan impunidad de graves violaciones de derechos humanos— como los crímenes de lesa humanidad, crímenes de guerra y la tortura—son incompatibles con las obligaciones contraídas en virtud de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos. Sin embargo, un Estado, como el ejecutor de sus propias leyes, puede ofrecer una amnistía a sus opositores políticos. En respuesta a las preguntas formuladas por UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, el Profesor Juan Méndez, Relator Especial de la ONU sobre la Tortura y Otros Tratos o Penas Crueles, Inhumanos o Degradantes, y uno de los abogados de Brewer Carías en la Corte IDH, señala que la ley internacional mayormente guarda silencio sobre amnistías por delitos políticos. Sin embargo, el Protocolo Adicional II a los Cuatro Convenios de Ginebra establece que los Estados pueden conceder “la amnistía más amplia posible a las personas que han participado en el conflicto armado” a la conclusión de hostilidades internas. Méndez explica que esta disposición ha sido interpretada para cubrir amnistía para los levantamientos armados contra el Estado, como la sedición o rebelión, pero no cubre los crímenes de guerra o crímenes contra la humanidad.

La restricción constitucional de Venezuela de las leyes de amnistía sigue estas normas internacionales y no concede amnistía a los acusados ​​de crímenes internacionales. Sin embargo, sigue la cuestión de si la ley de amnistía de Venezuela es, en sí misma, discriminatoria, ya que no cubría los acusados ​​situados fuera de Venezuela cuando se aprobó la ley. Amnistías condicionadas podrían ser admisibles en virtud del derecho internacional, aunque las normas son poco claras y los tribunales internacionales asi como también  mecanismos cuasi-judiciales no han gobernado con autoridad sobre las condiciones permisibles. En Sudáfrica, por ejemplo, la amnistía de la persecución fue proporcionada por “actos, omisiones y delitos asociados con objetivos políticos y cometidos en el curso de los conflictos del pasado,” pero sólo después de que el acusado había hecho una revelación completa a la Comisión de Reconciliación y Verdad. Esta disposición de amnistía condicional es generalmente compatible con las normas internacionales.

El tipo de condicionalidad que se encuentra en Sudáfrica, sin embargo, no refleja las restricciones impuestas a la ley venezolana que se basa simplemente en el lugar y la postura procesal del caso del acusado. En una conversación con UNROW, Méndez había  señalado que “una condición basada en el estado procesal de cada acusado sería discriminatoria porque el acusado no está en el control de esa situación y debido a que no tiene sentido despenalizar la conducta de algunos acusados ​​y otros no,  únicamente sobre la base de si luchan contra los cargos.” Es poco probable que la Corte Interamericana se pronunciará sobre la ley de amnistía de Venezuela—ya que se centra en cuestiones de protección judicial y procesos imparciales—entonces, la cuestión sobre las normas internacionales para leyes de amnistía seguirá siendo un tema de debate; sin embargo, es probable que Brewer Carías conocerá el resultado de su audiencia en los próximos meses.

 * Las autoras son miembros del UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic observando el caso Allan R. Brewer Carías v. La Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela en la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Los miembros del UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic y el Human Rights Brief contribuyeron investigación and redación adicional en Washington, D.C.

The Role of Amnesty Laws in International Law at Issue Before the IACtHR

Disponible en español aquí

San Jose, Costa Rica – On a full day of witness and expert testimony in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR, Court), the case of Brewer-Carías v. Venezuela came to an end with closing arguments from the petitioners, the state, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, Commission). The case, which involves the criminal trial in Venezuela of political dissident Allan R. Brewer-Carías, focuses on the alleged violation of his rights to judicial protection and an impartial and independent trial under Articles 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights (Convention). During Wednesday’s expert testimony, one expert noted that the Special Amnesty Law issued on December 31, 2007, by President Hugo Chávez should have extinguished the case against Brewer-Carías and that the discriminatory application of the law is contrary to international standards. The Venezuelan government, however, argues that due to Brewer- Carías’ absence from the country when the law was passed, and the ongoing nature of his criminal trial in Venezuela, the amnesty law does not cover his case. However, the amnesty law has been applied to other individuals whose case was in the same procedural posture as that of Brewer-Carías. The status of amnesty laws on an international level is unclear, and whether the Venezuelan amnesty law complies with international standards is a contentious matter. Under Article 29 of the Venezuelan Constitution, only amnesties for violations of human rights and crimes against humanity are prohibited.

When Hugo Chávez returned to power after the April 2002 coup d’etat that briefly unseated him, he established a Special Parliamentary Commission to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the coup. The investigations led to the arrest, trial, and imprisonment of coup leaders as well as those who claimed no involvement in the coup, including Brewer-Carías. In 2007, while there was a pending decision on Brewer-Carías’s appeal to nullify proceedings against him, Chávez announced the Special Amnesty Law Decree. The law effectively dismissed all charges against accused participants and those under investigation for crimes connected to the 2002 coup. Brewer-Carías, however, was prevented from enjoying the same benefits of the law. The state reasoned that, since he was not present in Venezuela to fight the charges against him, he was not covered under the amnesty law despite his presence in the state for the first several years of the investigation and his cooperation with prosecutors. Former Venezuelan judge and attorney Jésus Ollarves provided expert testimony in the IACtHR hearing on Wednesday and testified that the law is discriminatory in nature and therefore contradictory to international law. The Venezuelan government insists that the law does not discriminate on prohibited grounds. In response to Ollarves’ testimony, the state accused Brewer-Carías of being a fugitive from Venezuela and stated that the law cannot cover him because he is not present in the country.

Amnesty laws are generally controversial under international standards and are legitimate only if they apply to crimes that a state has no international requirement to prosecute or extradite for prosecution. Both the Commission and the Court have found that amnesty laws granting impunity for serious human rights violations—such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture—are incompatible with obligations under the American Convention for Human Rights. However, a state, as the enforcer of its own laws, may provide amnesty to its political opponents. In response to questions posed by the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, Professor Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and one of the attorneys for Brewer-Carías in the IACtHR, notes that international law remains mostly silent on amnesties for political crimes. However, Additional Protocol II to the Four Geneva Conventions provides that states may grant “the broadest possible amnesty to persons who have participated in the armed conflict” at the conclusion of internal hostilities. Méndez explains that this provision has been interpreted to cover amnesty for armed uprisings against the state, such as sedition or rebellion, but does not cover war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Venezuela’s constitutional restriction on amnesty laws follows these international standards and does not grant amnesty to those accused of international crimes. The question remains, however, whether Venezuela’s amnesty law is per se discriminatory because it did not cover accused persons located outside of Venezuela when the law was passed. Conditional amnesties could be permissible under international law, although the standards are unclear and international tribunals and quasi-judicial mechanisms have not authoritatively ruled on permissible conditions. In South Africa, for example, amnesty from prosecution was provided for “acts, omissions, and offenses associated with political objectives and committed in the course of the conflicts of the past,” but only after the accused had made a full disclosure to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This conditional amnesty provision is generally compatible with international standards.

The type of conditionality found in South Africa, however, does not mirror the restrictions placed on the Venezuelan law that are based merely on location and procedural posture of the accused’s case. In a conversation with UNROW, Méndez noted that “a condition based on the procedural status of each criminal defendant would be discriminatory because the defendant is not in control of that status and because it does not make sense to decriminalize the behavior for some defendants and not others, solely on the basis of whether and how they are fighting charges.” The IACtHR is unlikely to adjudicate on Venezuela’s amnesty law—as it focuses on judicial protection and the issue of impartial trial—thus, the question of international standards for amnesty laws will remain up for debate; however, Brewer-Carías will likely learn the outcome of his hearing in the coming months.

* The writers are members of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic observing the hearing of Allan R. Brewer Carías v. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The staffs of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic and the Human Rights Brief contributed additional research and editing in Washington, D.C.

 

Expert Witness Highlights Previously Recognized Issue of Judicial and Prosecutorial Independence in Venezuela

Versión en español disponible aquí

San Jose, Costa Rica – During the first day of the Brewer-Carías v. Venezuela hearing before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACtHR, Court), the petitioner Allan R. Brewer-Carías, a Venezuelan political dissident and constitutional law professor, recounted his story before a full courtroom. Following Brewer-Carías’s captivating testimony, León Henrique Cottin Núñez, Brewer-Carías’s legal counsel in the Venezuelan case, and a leading defense attorney in the country, was called as an expert witness for the petitioner. Venezuela’s representatives proceeded to question Cottin, specifically focusing on whether Brewer-Carías exhausted domestic remedies, a prerequisite to obtaining a ruling on the merits from the Court. In response, Cottin detailed the numerous procedural and legal hurdles the defense team confronted throughout the proceedings, including transcribing the several thousand page record by hand, coping with irregular judicial removals following any favorable decision in Brewer-Carías’s case, starting the process anew on numerous occasions as a result of these removals, and submitting appeals that the Venezuela judicial system ultimately ignored. Moreover, until the Court’s recent intervention last week, Cottin did not have access to Brewer-Carías’s case file. Cottin underscored that these issues reflect a larger pattern in the Venezuelan judicial system, a lack of independence of judges and prosecutors, also noted in Freedom House’s 2013 Freedom in the World Report.

 Under Article 46 of the American Convention on Human Rights (Convention), a petitioner must pursue and exhaust all domestic remedies before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, Commission) may consider the merits of a case and advance the case to the IACtHR. Three exceptions, however, apply to the exhaustion of remedies requirement: (1) the domestic legislation does not afford due process for the protection of the right, (2) the petitioner has been denied access to the remedies provided under domestic law or prevented from exhausting them, or (3) there has been unwarranted delay in rendering a final judgment under the aforementioned remedies.

The Commission, however, did not agree with Brewer-Carías’s argument that the lack of independence of the judiciary left him unable to exhaust domestic remedies, although it reiterated its long-standing concern of the problem of judicial independence in Venezuela. In its decision on grounds for admissibility, the Commission cited the second and third exceptions as applicable, and therefore admitted the case on those grounds, noting that more than three years passed without a decision on his various appeals. In its final decision on the merits, the Commission found that the State had not complied with its obligations to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

It remains to be seen whether the Court will accept Brewer-Carías’s argument that the lack of an independent and impartial judiciary prevented him from exhausting domestic remedies. For Brewer-Carías, failing to prove exhaustion of remedies could be fatal to his case before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. Jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights provides persuasive guidance for the IACtHR. In similar cases, the ECtHR has waived the requirement to exhaust domestic remedies when the impartiality and independence of the judiciary is questionable. The testimony of expert witness León Henrique Cottin strongly demonstrated that the defense made every attempt to comply with the Venezuelan legal system, but was prevented from doing so as a result of the partial and temporary nature of the prosecutors and judges. On the second day of the trial, the representatives for Brewer-Carías and those of the Venezuelan State will each question additional witnesses and present their closing arguments.

* The writers are members of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic observing the upcoming hearing of Allan R. Brewer-Carías v. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The staffs of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic and the Human Rights Brief contributed additional research and editing in Washington, D.C.

 

The IACtHR Takes on Judicial Independence and Prosecutorial Power in Venezuela

Traducción al español disponible aquí

San Jose, Costa Rica – In one of few public hearings for the 100th period of sessions, and the last case involving Venezuela before its denunciation of the American Convention on Human Rights (Convention) becomes official, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACtHR, Court) will hear arguments from Venezuelan political dissident and constitutional law professor Allan R. Brewer-Carías and the Venezuelan government on September 3 and 4, 2013. Professor Brewer-Carías is accused by the Venezuelan government of writing the “Carmona Decree;” the proposed governing document of the orchestrators of the April 2002 coup d’état that briefly unseated Chávez. After Chávez was reinstated, the government pursued a series of political and judicial maneuvers against Brewer-Carías that he says guaranteed that he could not receive a fair trial and that eventually forced him to leave to the United States in 2005. Brewer-Carías and his representatives seek to illustrate before the IACtHR how the lack of prosecutorial and judicial independence in the Venezuelan justice system led to his persecution and violations of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Venezuelan government, however, argues that Brewer-Carías’s rights have not been violated and calls on the IACtHR to respect its sovereign judicial and prosecutorial systems.

 Allan Brewer-Carías, a political opponent of Chávez since Chávez first came to power in 1999, asserts that he is a victim of a lack of judicial independence in the Venezuelan justice system. Brewer-Carías’s opposition to Chávez has never been a secret, and Brewer-Carías alleges that Chávez and the Venezuelan government’s prosecution of him are born of personal motivations because of his political beliefs. However, he resolutely refutes the Venezuelan government’s accusations that he attempted to unseat then-president Chávez during the 2002 coup attempt and that he played a leading role in drafting the Carmona Decree. After Chávez’s reinstatement, a Special Parliamentary Commission investigated those who orchestrated the coup, listing Brewer-Carías as a person of interest. Subsequently, in 2005, a provisional prosecutor formally charged Brewer-Carías with “conspiracy to change the Constitution violently by drafting the Carmona Decree.” However, an amnesty law enacted in 2007 retroactively pardoned most alleged participants in the coup. Brewer-Carías, who was outside of Venezuela when the law was passed, never received the benefit of amnesty. Recently, the Venezuelan government has repeated allegations against Brewer-Carías in its September 2012 letter of denunciation of the American Convention on Human Rights.

In 2007, Brewer-Carías, who had already fled Venezuela because he believed he could not get a fair trial, filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, Commission) stating that the Venezuelan government had violated his rights under the Convention. He alleges that judges who ruled in his favor or prosecutors who exercised independence as required under international standards were subsequently dismissed from their posts, resulting in at least four different provisional prosecutors assigned to the case in succession. In particular, he noted that his right to judicial protection under Article 25 had been manifestly violated by the lack of judicial independence.

In contrast, the Venezuelan government argues that Brewer-Carías’s rights have not been violated. The government notes that he was provided access to the documents in his criminal case in Venezuela. Although the trial remains on hold due to his absence from the country, the government refuses to nullify the proceedings until Brewer-Carías’s return. The government further argues that Brewer-Carías was granted all of the formal protections of an impartial trial, which, it notes, is not that the accused receives judicial decisions in his favor, but that the individual enjoys the possibility of efficient access to the justice system to defend his contentions and secure a response from the state grounded in law. The State, therefore, claims that the alleged violations are without merit because Venezuelan laws provide judicial protection, and were lawfully carried out in this case.

The Commission dismissed several counts in Brewer-Carías’s petition, but agreed with Brewer-Carías’s that Venezuela had violated several of his rights, including the right to a competent and impartial court (Article 8(1)) and the right to judicial protection (Article 25). In the Commission’s Admissibility Report, the Commission concluded that throughout the investigatory phase of the Brewer-Carías case in Venezuela, the state repeatedly denied Brewer-Carías meaningful access to his case file, the right to question witnesses against him, and the right to present evidence refuting the charges. In its decision on the merits, the Commission stated that because “the prosecution of Allan [Brewer-Carías] was conducted by temporary prosecutors and judges . . . the guarantees of independence and impartiality were lacking.” It further noted that the jurisprudence established by the IACtHR, the European Court of Human Rights, and the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary indicate that an adequate appointment process, non-removal of judges, and freedom from external pressure are all-important guarantees of judicial independence. When Venezuela refused to remedy these alleged wrongs after the Commission’s 2009 decision, the IACHR referred the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Numerous human rights, rule of law, and intergovernmental organizations have denounced the absence of an independent judiciary in Venezuela. In a 2009 report on Human Rights in Venezuela, the IACHR noted that judges in Venezuela may be appointed or removed at the sole discretion of the Supreme Court of Justice, thereby threatening their independence and impartiality. Additionally, the Commission further emphasized concerns of the provisional status of judges—which affects their autonomy—stating that the problem of provisional judicial appointments has increased and worsened since the judicial restructuring process began with the enactment of the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution. Whether the Court will agree that Venezuela’s judiciary has denied Brewer-Carías’s right to a competent and impartial court, as well as judicial protection, will be decided after his September 3rd and 4th public hearing. Venezuela’s withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the Court will further complicate whether the State will comply with the Court’s final judgment.

* The writers are members of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic observing the hearing of Allan R. Brewer Carías v. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The staffs of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic and the Human Rights Brief contributed additional research and editing in Washington, D.C.