|Judge María Lourdes Afiuni jailed on December 10, 2009|
The case of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni provides a chilling answer for members of the judiciary in general. Judge Afiuni ruled that a near three year pretrial detention ran afoul of the two year limit prescribed in Venezuelan law and authorized the conditional liberty of Eligio Cedeño, a banker accused of corruption on December 10, 2009. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions had already declared Cedeño's detention arbitrary. The judge was detained that same day, ironically on human rights day, and jailed.
|Prisoner of conscience: Judge María Lourdes Afiuni.|
When Venezuela's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz in Geneva denied the existence of any complaint for sexual abuse and torture involving Judge Afiuni on June 29, 2015 this led Afiuni to break her silence on June 30, 2015. She explained "how the INOF guards and officials of the Ministry of Justice sexually abused her and destroyed her vagina, anus and bladder."
Judge Susana Barrientos knows that deciding based on the rule of law could open her up to the threat of a 35 year prison sentence, arbitrary imprisonment, repeated and brutal rapes, and a protracted six year legal struggle to defend her good name in a system in which judicial independence has been compromised.
Regardless of the outcome today the safety of both Leopoldo Lopez and
Judge Susana Barrientos (if she decides in favor of Leopoldo) depends on international scrutiny, solidarity and protection. The international community must remain vigilant.