Venezuela: the ICJ deeply concerned by the National Constituent Assembly process

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The ICJ is deeply concerned by the Constituent Assembly elections held in Venezuela on 31 July and the violence that accompanied the process and left a number of people killed, injured or arbitrarily detained.

The ICJ considers that the election of a National Constituent Assembly (NCA) failed to comply with the Article 347 of the current Constitution, which provides the legal basis for convening of an NCA. In particular, a significant portion of the members of the NCA should be chosen in open and universal elections, but instead are to be selected from restricted social sectors.

Such arrangements undermine the right to direct, free, equal and secret elections recognized under international human rights standards, the Geneva-based organization adds.

A Constitution which does not guarantee the basic principles of the rule of law and the validity of fundamental human rights and freedoms not only violates the international obligations of the Venezuelan State, but can also be used as a means of undermining the human rights of Venezuelans,” said Sam Zarifi, Secretary General of the ICJ.

The ICJ also calls for a prompt and independent investigation into alleged electoral fraud on the day of the poll.

The ICJ says that irrespective of its legitimacy, the new NCA must respect human rights and rule of law principles.

In particular, until the approval of a new Constitution, the NCA must respect the current Constitution of 1999, especially in terms of judicial independence, and protection of human rights.

Similarly, the new Constitution, which the NCA will draft, must also fully guarantee the basic principles of the rule of law, including the separation of powers, legislative autonomy, the independence of the judiciary, the subordination of military forces to the civil authority and the principle of legality and judicial control of executive actions.

The new Constitution also must fully guarantee the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

It must enshrine the prohibition of trials of civilians by military courts, and ensure that states of emergency respect the requirements and guarantees of the Covenant International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international law and standards, the ICJ adds.

The ICJ also considers that the new Constitution, in addition to incorporating the human rights and fundamental freedoms already contained in the current Constitution, should add the express prohibition of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, and other serious human rights violations.

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