Venezuela’s Supreme Court declared [press release, in Spanish] an amnesty law for jailed opposition leaders unconstitutional on Monday. The legislation, which was approved by the opposition-controlled congress, would have frees dozens of jailed opposition politicians and was among campaign promises [AP report] that delivered control of congress to the opposition in 2015. The court reasoned that the law would allow for impunity [El Mundo report, in Spanish] because it would allow amnesty for crimes that were of a criminal and not political character. President Nicolás Maduro had strongly opposed [BBC report] the law on the grounds that it was an attempt to destabilize his government and pardon those who he describes as “criminals.” Since the opposition took control of congress, the Supreme Court has sided with Maduro’s government.
The schism between the pro-government-controlled Supreme Court and the opposition-controlled National Assembly following the December election has steadily impacted the country. Venezuela’s National Assembly had approved the amnesty law last month [JURIST report], which would have freed 77 individuals for alleged political reasons under a number of crimes, such as instigation of violence or commission of treason. Earlier last month the Supreme Court ruled that the National Assembly may not review [JURIST report] the appointment of 13 justices to the high court. In February the Supreme Court—contrary to Congress’s rejection—upheld [JURIST report] Maduro’s “economic emergency decree” as legal and valid. In January the Court ruled [JURIST report] that decisions from the opposition dominated General Assembly would be void until three barred lawmakers were relieved form their seats.