Target: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Goal: Release judge who is unjustly charged and has experienced abuse in prison
After three years of being imprisoned, Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni’s trial recently started in Venezuela. Afiuni was put in jail after she allowed conditional bail for a businessman waiting trial. Human rights groups across the world have condemned the jailing of Judge Afiuni. Details of her imprisonment have recently been released revealing that Judge Afiuni experienced a great amount of abuse in jail.
In 2009, Judge Afiuni allowed Eligio Cedeño to be bailed out on conditional release pending his trial. Before Afiuni’s decision Cedeño had been in pre-trial detention for almost three years. Afiuni’s decision was in line with Venezuelan law which has a two-year limit. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Cedeño’s detention arbitrary, which influenced Afiuni’s decision.
Eligio Cedeño was charged with undermining currency controls. Cedeño had previously financed opposition politicians making him a foe of President Hugo Chávez. Chávez was outraged by Afiuni’s decision and went on national television calling her a bandit and demanding that she be given a 30-year prison sentence. Judge Afiuni was later arrested and charged with corruption, being an accessory to escape, criminal conspiracy and abuse of power. Afiuni is being punished for respecting the rule of law and carrying out her judicial duties.
Judge Afiuni has now been detained for almost three years. For over a year Afiuni was held in a violent women prison. Afiuni said that her life was threatened in prison; she claims that she was cut with blades and burned with cigarettes. She also claims that she was raped in prison which led to a pregnancy that was aborted.
She was moved to house arrest due to a cancer diagnosis. As part of house arrest Afiuni is under constant surveillance by military police. Although her trial recently started Afiuni is protesting her arrest by refusing to cooperate in her case.
Judge Afiuni’s case is one of Venezuela’s most prominent human rights cases. Human rights advocates say that Afiuni’s arrest shows lack of judicial independence in the country and highlights judge intimidation. The United Nations condemns Afiuni’s continued detention. Sign the petition and demand the Venezuelan government release Judge Afiuni and ensure her safety.
Dear President Hugo Chávez,
I am writing to voice my concern over the continued unlawful detention of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni. Her arrest shows the lack of judicial independence in Venezuela and the presence of judge intimidation.
Judge Afiuni’s ruling over the Eligio Cedeño’s case was lawful and in conjunction with Venezuelan and international law. The simple fact that her ruling did not appease you is not a reason for her to be jailed. You declared on television that Judge Afiuni’s case was an example for other judges in the country. Is that to say that if judges do not rule to your liking they will also be jailed?
In addition to the unlawful arrest of Judge Afiuni I condemn the appalling treatment she has received since imprisoned. Judge Afiuni has experienced abuse, death threats and sexual rape. She also has not received proper medical treatment. Her human rights have been ignored since her arrest.
This situation needs to be resolved quickly, I demand the release of Judge Afiuni and that the charges against her are dropped. I also demand that her safety be guaranteed by the government of Venezuela. I also ask that you put an end to the harassment of judges in Venezuela and ensure that something like this not happen again. It is time to resolve this issue in support of social justice and human rights.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: www.10dollarstosavevenezuela.org