A number of Venezuelan civilians are reportedly being tried in the country’s military court system, alarming President Nicolás Maduro’s opposition and human rights activists.
Amnesty International says that more than 250 civilians have been brought before military judges. On May 10, Amnesty’s Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas said the civilians were all prosecuted for offenses such as “association with intent to incite rebellion” and “attacking a sentinel.”
Reports vary on how many citizens have been officially detained. Foro Penal, an organization that offers free legal assistance to Venezuelans, said that 50 civilians were being held in Guarico state. Another lawyer said 70 have been detained in Carabobo state.
“The right and basic guarantees of due process no longer exist in Venezuela from the moment a civilian is forced to appear before a military court.”
Luis Almagro, Organization of American States secretary-general
The government has not confirmed the use of military courts on civilians, but The New York Times reported on May 12 that Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino told Spanish-language media that he would use “military justice” against any protester who attacked the national guard.
At least 38 people have died as protests against the government enter its second month. Protesters are calling for elections.
The latest surge of protests began after the Supreme Tribunal of Justice’s ruling on March 30 that it would take power over the National Assembly, essentially dissolving it. Venezuela’s highest court, which is mostly full of Maduro’s supporters, reversed the decision a day later due to criticism.
After protests raged on for a month, Maduro called for a new constitution to be written. His political opponents accused him of trying to put off the 2018 elections, which Maduro and his party would likely lose.
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) May 9, 2017
— Efecto Cocuyo (@EfectoCocuyo) May 8, 2017