The red justice system keeps transforming…

In an interview with state TV, the head of the Venezuelan Supreme Court (and the whole Judiciary Branch), Luisa Estela Morales (one half of a dynamic duo with her tocaya, Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Diaz) said that there’s an ongoing transformation of the justice system.

Her statement is not far from the truth, but the point of that transformation is convert justice into a political weapon against dissidence. Recent developments prove this point:

  1. President Chavez will reform both the Penal Code and the Organic Code of Penal Procedures, the two main laws which regulate criminal justice in Venezuela, by decree, through the Enabling Law. The idea of one person alone deciding what is a crime is and the penalty it would carry creates a dangerous precedent of unpredictable proportions. Recall that the Enabling Law was supposed to be just about helping those who lost their houses to 2010’s floods.
  2. The reformed COPP would apparently eliminate of escabinos, two ordinary citizens who, in some cases, decide jointly with the judge (the closest we have to a jury trial). Experts have noted the drawbacks involved. For quite some time, the judiciary has been slow in implement this legal figure, leaving most cases in hand of judges alone (more than half of them have provisional status, so they can be easily dismissed).
  3. The Minister for Prisons, Iris Varela, announced the controversial idea of “erasing” the criminal records of former convicts. I don’t even want to start on this one, but it will definitely join the files of the Department of “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”.
  4. Last but not least, lawyers are now feeling the heat of official repression. In this ocassion, the victim was the lawyer of incarcelated Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, José Amalio Graterol. He was detained in the middle of a trial because he opposed the court’s decision of judge his client in absentia. He’s currently being held at Vargas State Police HQ and his arrest comes hours after he was interviewed in Globovision.

Venezuelan justice is indeed transforming into the red justice her predeccesor Omar Mora openly promoted more than six years ago in front of the whole Supreme Court.

13 thoughts on “The red justice system keeps transforming…

  1. A couple of updates on Mr. Graterol. His court presentation has delayed for a whole week (he was incarcelated the whole time) and he’s could continue in prison unless he pays a huge sum of money for bail. Her lawyer (who was attacked at the time of Mr. Graterol’s arrest) explains:

    http://globovision.com/news.php?nid=234434

    Beside, he was forced to wear handcuffs, as the video below shows. The prison “pranes” of La Planta got better treatment than him and Judge Afiuni. La justicia roja no tiene corazon venezolano…

  2. Luisa Estela Morales will end her career in jail. Either Chavez will put her in jail for making the wrong decision. Or she will go to jail after Chavez demise for corruption.

  3. Did we expect anything better from a “Justicia Revolucionaria” system by a “Gobierno Bolivariano Revolucionario” of the “Republica Bolivariana” de Venezuela?

    It’s not like they don’t advertise it enough which they do.

    And it’s not like it hasn’t happened enough in this world, in the past 222 years, either. The “Revolucionario” and the ideological (in this case “Bolivariano”, any resemblance to the real Simon Bolivar and his collaborators and their ideas purely coincidental) monikers are all powerful excuses and disclaimers. The “Revolucionaria/o” and “X” Republic, Justice, Law and government contain no of republican form of government, fairness or neutrality, consistency or constitutionality, only appearances if they bother keeping them.

    Maybe the nifty names will take a constitutional amendment. The rest of the damage will take longer. However a small but important headway will be made, and must be made, by erasing them from our public discourse.

  4. Hey Gustavo, very good post, my thoughts on the issues:
    1- Regarding the reform of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedural Code. I agree on how dangerous and even unconstitutional is to penalize conducts by an enabling law (To be balanced, and at the risk of troll feeding, Caldera also created crimes when he legislated through a decree of emergency in the 1990’s. This is the dangerous tradition of governing by decree in Venezuela, now taken to the stratosphere, but there is a reflection to be made in how the common practice of the Venezuelan system before Chavez of abusing law making powers has been used to take us to a near authoritarian State and a rethink on how we have understood the separation of powers in our country.
    A comprehensive Criminal Code reform is long overdue. The code is still based on a Italian one of the 19th century. It has been reformed to punish some crimes more harshly but it still criminalizes adultery of married women and not men (in men’s case only when is notorious) and no one, nor the legislative or the TSJ have bothered to declare many of this archaic rules unconstitutional. There are two major issued in a criminal code reform that have to be openly discussed in a reform of the criminal code, and the highlight the danger of doing it through a enabling law which are abortion and euthanasia.
    2- About the escabinos, I’m personally not very fond of the idea of escabinos and juries. I think it leads to show trials and decisions more based on emotion, than actual evidence and objectivity. However, citizen participation in trials is a principle established in the Constitution and the COPP and any attempt to undermine this is unconstitutional. Originally, the first COPP included juries and escabinos for most crimes. But there was never any political will to carry this out. In 2001 the COPP was reformed and the juries were taken out. The office that handled citizen participation was seriously under-budget and understaffed, the TSJ has pretty much killed the system with a decision that subverted the COPP. Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada. I personally don’t agree with the position of law scholars who said that the escabinos are necessary now because the judges are all partial and corrupt. You can pretty much rig the selection of escabinos as you do with the selection of judges, the justice system will only work when every person working there, including judges and prosecutors are both independent and accountable-
    At the end, in Venezuela we have not learned the limited power of legislation. The Venezuelan justice system works badly not only because of the COPP or the CP, also because there are not enough judges for the number of cases, not enough prosecutors either. Many of the Judge and Prosecutor are not prepare to carry our their duties and so on. It was the same thing when they created the COPP back in 1998 and things remained the same.

  5. * Sorry this was badly edited
    1- Regarding the reform of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedural Code. I agree on how dangerous and even unconstitutional is to penalize conducts by an enabling law (To be balanced, and at the risk of troll feeding, Caldera also created crimes when he legislated through a decree of emergency in the 1990′s. This is the dangerous tradition of governing by decree in Venezuela, now taken to the stratosphere, but there is a reflection to be made in how the common practice of Venezuelan Presidents before Chavez of abusing their law making powers has been used to take us to a near authoritarian State. We have to reconsider how we have understood the idea of separation of powers in our country, even before Chavez)
    A comprehensive Criminal Code reform is long overdue. The code is still modeled on a Italian one of the 19th century. It has been reformed to punish some crimes more harshly but it still criminalizes the adultery of married women and not men (in men’s case only when is notorious) and no one, nor the legislative or the TSJ have bothered to declare many of these archaic rules unconstitutional. There are two major issued in a criminal code reform that have to be openly discussed and they highlight the danger of doing it through a enabling law which are abortion and euthanasia.

    • No escabinos and trials in absentia are now allowed. Red justice is onward. Sigh.

      • Cant imagine the mess of such an important and difficult law drafted in a few days by a bunch of idiots. Unconstitutional in form and substance, and again no one cares. sigh

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