Puebla, Mexico, August 17, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela will end the use of military trials for anti-government protesters, the country’s national constituent assembly (ANC) said Tuesday.
ANC head Delcy Rodriguez said the move will include all current cases, which will be moved to civilian courts. According to Rodriguez, the decision was made after the ANC received a request from President Nicolas Maduro.
“President Nicolas Maduro has made his request to the ANC in order to guarantee the peace and tranquillity of the Republic,” Rodriguez said.
Elected in July, the ANC has the power to propose broad legal reforms, including amendments to the constitution pending a referendum. However, Rodriguez said the proposal to end military trials for protesters will be passed through the body's Truth Commission, allowing it to come into force without further approval.
“We will ensure immediate execution to this request by implementing it through the Truth Commission,” she said.
The use of military tribunals against protesters has long been deeply controversial in Venezuela, with the opposition arguing they lack transparency. Supporters have argued Venezuela’s civilian judicial system is already buckling under a backlog of cases, and lacks the resources to quickly prosecute the hundreds of anti-government demonstrators accused of violent – sometimes deadly – crimes.
According to the opposition-aligned prison monitor Foro Penal, at least 655 “political prisoners” have faced military trials in recent months. The government, for its part, has insisted that the trials have been limited to those accused of carrying out attacks on military personnel and facilities, such as the La Carlota Air Base in eastern Caracas, which has been beseiged numerous times by anti-government militants.
Condemning the use of these tribunals against protesters as “unorthodox”, Rodriguez blamed ousted attorney general Luisa Ortega for the proliferation of military trials for civilians.
She accused Ortega of “inaction and inactivity”, forcing authorities to resort to military trials. Ortega has criticised the use of military trials, and accused security forces of using excessive force against demonstrators.
Along with being blamed for the military trials, Ortega has also been accused of being soft on violent anti-government protesters, who have been accused of killing as many as 32 people since April. A total of around 5000 people have been arrested since the unrest began, according to a disputed United Nations report.
On Tuesday, one prominent detainee was released on bail. Protester and violinist Wuilly Arteaga was released after three weeks in custody. A symbol of the opposition protests, Arteaga was detained on July 27 after joining a protest that turned violent.
However, upon his release, Arteaga denied that he was mistreated by security forces during his detention. He also criticized opposition leaders, in particular National Assembly Vice President Freddy Guevara, for trumping up his case to promote anti-government unrest.
"With what morality and courage do you [Freddy Guevara] order a strike when you leave for Miami? With what morality do you say '48 hour strike' or 'great taking of Caracas' when these events caused more than 90 deaths?" he stated during an interview on state television.