Venezuela must stop trying civilians in military court: UN experts

Venezuela must stop using military tribunals to prosecute civilians, a group of United Nations experts said Friday, demanding that the country’s embattled government respect the right to demonstrate.

President Nicolas Maduro’s administration has thrown thousands of opposition supporters in jail for protesting his leadership and his effort to rewrite the constitution, a move critics say would mark the death of democracy in the country.

“The government of Venezuela must stop systematically detaining protesters and end the growing use of military tribunals to try civilians,” the group of five experts said in a statement.

According the group, Venezuela has tried 400 protesters through the military justice system.

In most cases, the accused “were deprived of their liberty after being found guilty of crimes in the military justice code, such as rebellion, treason and assault,” said the statement.

The Foro Penal civil society group put the number of military cases against civilian protesters at 527, noting that some had already been released.

“Military judicial bodies should, as a matter of principle, not be deemed competent to try civilians,” said the expert group, which included Jose Antonio Guevara Bermudez, a specialist on arbitrary detentions and David Kaye, special rapporteur on freedom of expression.

Also co-signing the complaint was and Annalisa Ciampi, the UN’s expert on peaceful assembly, Diego Garcia-Sayan, special rapporteur on judicial independence, and Nils Melzer, the UN expert on torture.

Maduro was on Friday set to install a powerful new assembly of his allies to rewrite the constitution, following a weekend vote marred by violence and allegations of fraud. (AFP reported)