Venezuela’s Supreme Court Affirms Right to Peaceful Protest

Venezuela’s political opposition blasted a Supreme Court ruling this week that found violent demonstrators may not be protected under freedom of assembly laws.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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A demonstrator walks past a burning tire during an right-wing protest demanding the ouster of President Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Oct. 26, 2016. (Reuters)
A demonstrator walks past a burning tire during an right-wing protest demanding the ouster of President Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Oct. 26, 2016. (Reuters)

Puebla, Mexico, November 18, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s political opposition lambasted a Supreme Court ruling this week that found violent demonstrators may not be protected under freedom of assembly laws.

The ruling on Tuesday affirmed the right to protest peacefully, but also found demonstrators could be charged with criminal offences if they engage in property damage or acts of violence.

The country’s main political opposition coalition, the MUD, has condemned the ruling as an attempt to “silence the country”.

The MUD Mayor of Miranda state’s Sucre municipality Carlos Ocariz said the political coalition will seek to fight the ruling.

“This ruling is absolutely unconstitutional,” he told right-wing newspaper El Nacional.

The court’s decision affirmed that state security forces are responsible for guaranteeing that protesters’ rights to free speech and freedom of assembly are respected, but also requires them to respond to cases where protesters engage in violence.

The court ruling comes after a spate of anti-government violence in recent months. In late October, massive anti-government rallies were marred by the shooting death of a police officer in Miranda. Graphic footage of the incident appeared to show police being showered with gunfire while approaching a group of demonstrators.

According to Venezuela's attorney general, over 90 people were arrested in connection with the October 26 protests nationwide, mostly on allegations of violence and property damage targeting public transport, universities and government buildings.

In 2014, 43 people were killed in a wave of anti-government violence. Most of the dead were government supporters, state security forces, or innocent bystanders.

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