Sentence against Venezuela opposition leader shows utter lack of judicial independence

Press Release
September 11, 2015

Sentence against Venezuela opposition leader shows utter lack of judicial independence

The 13 years and nine months prison sentence against a Venezuelan opposition leader without any credible evidence against him shows an utter lack of judicial independence and impartiality in the country, said Amnesty International.

“The charges against Leopoldo López were never adequately substantiated and the prison sentence against him is clearly politically motivated. His only ‘crime’ was being leader of an opposition party in Venezuela,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“He should have never been arbitrarily arrested or tried in the first place. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

“With this decision, Venezuela is choosing to ignore basic human rights principles and giving the green light to more abuses.”

Christian Holdack, Demian Martín and Ángel González, who were tried alongside Leopoldo López, were also found guilty but will spend their sentences outside of prison.

In the case of Christian Holdack, the Public Prosecutor’s Office indictment, to which Amnesty International has also had access, contains no credible evidence to support the charges against him.

Leopoldo López, leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, handed himself in to the National Guard (Guardia Nacional) on February 18, 2014 after a mass anti-government demonstration he organized. He was charged with terrorism, murder and grievous bodily harm, public incitement, arson damages to property and conspiracy to commit crimes.

In August 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that López’s detention was arbitrary and the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the authorities to release him immediately.

Forty-three people died, including members of the security forces, and hundreds were injured during the protests that swept Venezuela in the first half of 2014. Scores were ill-treated and thousands detained. Victims and their relatives are still awaiting justice.