The Judicial Branch is the “institution of government charged with enforcement of the law through the administration of justice” it is “the State’s empowerment that allows the administration of justice through the application of the law”. Its minimum basic features are; its independence, impartiality, and jurisdictional exclusivity. Its duties are to abide by and enforce the tenor of the Constitution and laws, protect citizens against abuses of power, and settle any conflict between citizens and between citizens and the State.
The basic components of democracy outlined in Article 3 of the Interamerican Democratic Charter are; respect for human rights and basic freedoms, the “rule of law” and the separation and independence of the branches of government. These, also highlight the importance of the Judicial Branch as an integral part of democracy.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights or the Covenant from San Jose, and all State’s Constitutions establish the need for “independence and impartiality” of the Judicial Branch and acknowledge as fundamental and intrinsic to the individual “the due process of law”, “the presumption of innocence”, the “equality of citizens before the law”, the “protection by the law”, and more.
Repression and political persecution using the administration of justice is nothing new, it has been practiced by totalitarian, authoritarian, and dictatorial regimes throughout history and the fight for freedom has consisted -in large measure- in establishing principles and guidelines to ensure an independent justice system that is “a guarantee of freedom” and not “an instrument of subjection”.
21st Century Socialism, AKA Castrochavism, has made it a part of its methodology, an extension of that applied by Cuba’s dictatorship, the total control of power and the manipulation of the Judicial Branch. Justice turned into a mechanism for repression and persecution based on “despicable laws” that violate human rights and establish the classification, procedures, and penalties aimed at perpetuating the regime.
In Cuba, summary -and nearly secret- prosecutions these past few months have sentenced; opposing musician Didier Eduardo Almagro Toledo to three years in jail, Luis Enrique Santos Caballero to eight months in prison for the crime of asking for Jose Daniel Ferrer’s freedom, Ariel Alonzo Perez to four years of prison with forced labor, Denis Solis to eight months of prison for displaying a placard stating “Cuban people, decide your future”, and the abuse continues.
In Venezuela, the sentencing to over 13 years of prison against Leopoldo Lopez has had an international impact, but hundreds of citizens, military, and social and political leaders are political prisoners with despicable judicial sentences. In Nicaragua, they have coined “Ortega-styled justice” to the repeated pattern at justice tribunals of “granting impunity when the defendants are Sandinista military and hounding those who are political adversaries” as denounced and chronicled by Fabian Medina from Managua.
In Bolivia, in just a few days they have exonerated Evo Morales and his accomplices of all charges in several proceedings that range from electoral fraud, terrorism, massacres, assassinations to the crimes of rape and sexual abuse of minor girls while he was the President. Replicating Castrochavist methodology previously used in “terrorism” cases, they have started penal case proceedings against attorneys, journalists, citizens, and civic organizations’ leaders. The Minister of Justice has officially requested -after a twit from Evo Morales- to free a FARC’s guerrilla member jailed for his criminal actions in 2019.
The question is; when will democratic governments and international organizations decry the disgrace and shamefulness of what Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua call justice? For how long will they continue accepting the rulings of this disgrace as valid?
*Attorney & Political Scientist. Director of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy.
Translated from Spanish by; Edgar L. Terrazas, member of the American Translators Association, ATA # 234680.