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UN rights experts urge Venezuela to release incarcerated judge

A group of UN experts on Thursday urged Venezuela to release [press release, in Spanish] Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni from prison. Afiuni has been incarcerated since 2009 [WP report] after she freed a prisoner that the government of President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] wanted jailed. According to her lawyer, Afiuni was raped in prison [NYT report] and subsequently had an abortion. The group of UN experts, including the Special Rapporteurs on torture, the independence of judges and lawyers, the situation for human rights defenders, and violence against women, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official websites], condemned the Venezuelan government [UN News Centre] for continuing to hold Afiuni in pre-trial detention and called for an investigation into the incident.

Chavez continue to draw international criticism. Last month Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called on Venezuela to end censorship and intimidation [JURIST report] of media that challenge official reports regarding Chavez. In July Chavez announced [JURIST report] that Venezuela would withdraw from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish]. In a statement during a military ceremony, Chavez announced the withdrawal and criticized the regional court, saying it is not fit to be called a human rights court. The decision came just after the IACHR concluded that the prison conditions of a man convicted in multiple bombings were a violation of his human rights. In 2011 Chavez criticized [JURIST report] the IACHR for ruling in favor of presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez, allowing him to run for office despite a separate court ruling barring him from the election.

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