Venezuela legislature passes amnesty bill for dozens of jailed political dissidents
Venezuela legislature passes amnesty bill for dozens of jailed political dissidents

[JURIST] Venezuela’s National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday approved an amnesty law [press release, in Spanish] that would free 77 individuals allegedly jailed for political reasons under a number of crimes such as the instigation of violence or commission of treason. President Nicolas Maduro [BBC profile] has vowed to veto the law by any means [WSJ report]. Roughly half of the prisoners were jailed by Maduro during anti-government protests in 2014 in which 43 individuals were killed. One of the most well-known opposition prisoners, Leopoldo Lopez, was sentenced [JURIST report] by a Venezuelan court to over 13 years in prison in 2015 for inciting violence a year earlier. A former prosecutor from Caracas released a video in October, stating that he was pressured into presenting false evidence [JURIST report] to condemn Lopez. The opposition-led assembly maintains that the jailed political dissidents were not present at the anti-government protests in 2014 and they are being held for illegitimate reasons. Maduro’s office stated that the law will be sent to the country’s Supreme Court, whose composition is loyal to Maduro. During the vote in the national assembly, Maduro denounced the bill, stating that the law would benefit criminals and terrorists [BBC report], and he announced his intention to veto the bill. The court has blocked every measure passed by the national assembly since the opposition-led party took control in January.

There has been considerable legislative tension between the pro-government controlled Supreme Tribunal of Justice and the opposition-majority National Assembly of Venezuela following the December election. Earlier this month, the highest court in Venezuela, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, ruled that the Venezuelan national assembly may not review the appointment of 13 justices [JURIST report] to the high court by the Socialist Party. The 13 justices were sworn in on December 23, immediately prior to the exit of prior Socialist Party majority. In February the court upheld President Maduro’s economic emergency decree [JURIST report] as legal and valid despite a rejection by the national assembly. The decree allows the president to control the budget, companies and the currency. In January the Supreme Tribunal of Justice ruled that all decisions from the opposition-led assembly would be void [JURIST report] until three opposition lawmakers were removed from their seats. The court’s decision came days after the assembly swore in elected lawmakers that were temporarily barred by the court [JURIST reports]. The ruling had suspended four elected lawmakers for their involvement in alleged election fraud last December [JURIST report].