Press release

Venezuela Violates Rights of Judge Afiuni in Trial

Freedom House issued the following statement in response to the Venezuelan government’s grave, systematic harassment of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni. 


In response to the Venezuelan government’s grave, systematic harassment of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The arbitrary decision to disqualify Judge Afiuni’s counsel and instead appoint National Public Defender Susana Barreiros, whose record is questionable at best, violates Afiuni’s right to due process in an already highly dubious proceeding,” said Carlos Ponce, director for Latin America programs. “The Venezuelan constitution and international treaties establish that defendants have the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice, a right that the government of Venezuela has knowingly violated.”


Judge María Lourdes Afiuni was arbitrarily detained on December 10, 2009, 15 minutes after she granted parole to political prisoner Eligio Cedeno, basing her ruling on resolutions by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The country’s president, Hugo Chávez Frias, then described her as a bandit and called for her to be imprisoned for 30 years.

Afiuni was held for 14 months with inmates whom she had previously convicted. For health reasons she was granted house arrest in 2011 and parole in 2013. Afiuni is barred from leaving the country and from using social media.

The public defender, Susana Barreiros, was the provisional judge who sentenced political leader Leopoldo López to 13 years in prison on September 10, 2015.

Venezuela is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2015.