Judge For Yourself

While a handful of high profile cases of political interference in the courts monopolize our attention, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights‘s 2009 report on Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela shows just how widespread these kinds of practices have become. The report notes 64 cases of judges who were either suspended from their jobs or had their appointments voided in the first 10 months of 2008, and a further 72 such cases in the first nine months of 2009. That’s 136 "isolated incidents" of judges being disposed of in questionable circumstances in a little over a year and a half!

While the government claims that all such dismissals and voided appointments followed proper channels, IACHR notes that in general, the state does not even explicitly set out the reasons for them (paragraph 275), much less allow a fair hearing where dismissed or voided judges can put forward a defense. The spotty nature of the evidence, (with a two month gap at the end of 2008 and a three month gap late last year,) tells you all you need to know about how systematic reporting on this sort of issue is at the Dirección Ejecutiva de la Magistratura these days.

Starting in paragraph 285, the commission sets out "a long list of judges who have been removed after handing down decisions that affected government interests." These include everyone from Franklin Arriechi, tossed out of the Supreme Tribunal for coming to the wrong judgment on the case of the April 11th generals (i.e., jus in plasta) and Judge Mercedes Chocrón Chocrón who, ironically enough, faced the axe for pointing out that the state was failing to comply with one of IACHR’s own precautionary measures to the entire First Court of Administrative Disputes, fired en masse for ruling that Cuban doctors sent to work in Barrio Adentro should have to have credentials that are recognized in Venezuela.

Other fireable offenses for judges these days include releasing people rounded up  at political protests (judges Miguel Luna, Petra Jiménez, and María Trastoy), overturning Conatel’s fines against Globovisión (Judge Juan Carlos Márquez Barroso), releasing from custody people who have been awaiting trial for more than two years (Judge María Mercedes Prado) and granting bail to people accused of corruption (Judge Elías Álvarez.)

Written in the measured, plodding style of international juridical bureaucracy, the IACHR report’s chapter on the Judiciary reads like a detailed indictment of a court system that barely bothers to conceal the extent of its assimilation into the Chavista Hive Mind. 

[Hat tip: PMB]