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Former Venezuela top judge accuses government of manipulating judicial decisions

A former Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice [official website, in Spanish] judge accused the Venezuelan government on Thursday of improperly interfering with judicial decisions in a televised interview [video, in Spanish]. In the interview conducted in the US, former Venezuelan Justice Eladio Aponte Aponte said that judges in Venezuela make their decisions based on government instructions. Aponte said "I think it's very corrupt at every single level. There's a lot of manipulation. ... There's no ruling that isn't consulted. Lately, all the criminal courts have to make consultations before handing down a ruling." Aponte is in the US at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [official website] after the Venezuelan government accused him of having connections to a drug trafficker [CNN report] in March and relieved him of his position on the country's highest court. In the interview, Aponte also alleged that Venezuela has kept prisoners of war, an allegation that has previously been denied by President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive].

The Venezuelan government has been criticized in the past, largely for restricting human rights. In December 2010, the National Assembly of Venezuela [official website, in Spanish] passed [JURIST report] the Social Responsibility Law [text, PDF, in Spanish], which bans Internet content that promotes unrest among citizens or challenges legally established authorities. In June 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] sent a letter to the Venezuelan government expressing concern [JURIST report] over the increasing threat to freedom of expression [press release] in the country, citing three recent cases that caused particular concern. In February 2010, the IACHR released a report [JURIST report] providing a detailed analysis on the state of human rights in Venezuela, which ultimately concluded that not all citizens are ensured full enjoyment of their basic human rights. The top Venezuelan human rights official criticized the report [JURIST report] and said that the report makes unfair characterizations and undermines Venezuelan democracy.

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