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Resolution adopted by consensus by the IPU Governing Council at its 194th session*
(Geneva, 20 March 2014)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Having before it the cases of the 14 aforesaid individuals, all current members of the National Assembly of Venezuela, which has been the subject of a study and report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians following the Procedure for the treatment by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of communications concerning violations of the human rights of members of parliament,

Taking into account the information and documents provided at a hearing that the Committee held on 17 March 2014 with the leader of the Venezuelan delegation to the 130th IPU Assembly (Geneva, March 2014), Mr. Dario Vivas Velasco, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly; taking into account the information provided by the source on 16 March 2014 during a hearing with the Committee, as well as the information provided before the same Assembly,

Considering the following specific information with regard to Mr. Pilieri, Mr. Sánchez, Mr. Alemán and Mr. Blanco:

  • All four persons were subject to criminal proceedings, Mr. Pilieri and Mr. Sánchez being detained, when they were elected in September 2010 - for the first time - to the National Assembly; other than in the case of Mr. Sánchez, who was convicted at final instance to a 19‑year prison term for his responsibility as the mastermind in the murder of Mr. Macías, a member of the State of Zulia’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, the other cases are pending and related to accusations of corruption and, in the case of Mr. Blanco, causing serious personal injury;

  • According to the source, in line with Article 200 of the Constitution of Venezuela, the National Assembly should have lifted the parliamentary immunity in each of these cases; the Supreme Court stated, however, that the four parliamentarians would continue to be prosecuted and that parliamentary immunity only took effect from the moment members of parliament took office, which was 5 January 2011; an ad hoc committee of the National Assembly concluded, in its report of 3 February 2011, that parliamentary immunity did not apply to legal proceedings against a person that had started before he/she was sworn in as a parliamentarian;

  • According to the source, the accusations against all four persons are baseless and politically motivated, which the parliamentary authorities deny; with regard to Mr. Sánchez, it affirms that he was convicted and sentenced for being the mastermind in the murder, although the material perpetrator(s) and the murder weapon were never found and as a result of a trial that was fundamentally flawed;

  • On 23 February 2011, Mr. Pilieri was released pending trial; the following day, he was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly; Mr. Blanco and Mr. Alemán were both sworn in on 5 January 2011 and have since been exercising their parliamentary mandates; all three remain, however, subject to criminal proceedings; in December 2011, Mr. Sánchez was released on humanitarian grounds; he took his seat in the National Assembly on 15 October 2013,

Taking into account the following legal provisions that concern parliamentary immunity and the exercise of political rights in Venezuela:

  • Article 200 of the Constitution stipulates: “Members of the National Assembly shall enjoy immunity in exercising their mandate from the moment their election is ... Should any member of the National Assembly be accused of committing an offence, the Supreme Court of Justice shall be seized of the matter on a confidential basis, being the only body competent to order, subject to the prior authorization of the National Assembly, the detention and prosecution of a member”;

  • Article 27 of the rules of procedure and of debates in the National Assembly state: “Members of parliament shall enjoy immunity under the terms and conditions provided in the Constitution. For the purposes of the procedure provided in Article 200 of the Constitution, after receiving the application for authorization from the Supreme Court of Justice, the Assembly shall appoint a special committee, which shall be responsible for examining the matter and submitting a detailed report to plenary, within thirty days following its establishment, on whether or not to proceed with the application for authorization, guaranteeing, no matter what, that the rules of due process enshrined in Article 49 of the Constitution will have been applied in the case of the member of parliament concerned”;

  • Article 42 of the Constitution stipulates: “…The exercise of citizenship or any political rights can be suspended only by final judicial decision in the cases provided by law.” Article 49 stipulates: “All judicial and administrative actions shall be subject to due process, therefore: …(2) Any person shall be presumed innocent until proven otherwise”;

  • Article 380 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states: “Once the required formalities for the prosecution have been duly completed, the official shall be suspended, or suspended and barred, or barred from holding any public office during the trial”;

  • Article 187 of the Constitution stipulates: “It is the responsibility of the National Assembly: … (20). To validate the mandate of its members and accept their resignation. The temporary suspension of a member of parliament from office may only be decided by a two-thirds vote of the members of parliament present,

Considering the following information about the situation of Mr. Richard Mardo:

  • On 5 February 2013, Mr. Diosdado Cabello, Speaker of the National Assembly, reportedly showed, in the course of an ordinary session, public documents and cheques to support the thesis that Mr. Mardo had benefited from third-party donations, with the argument that this amounted to illicit enrichment; the source affirms that what the Speaker had shown were falsified cheques and forged receipts;
    -         On 6 February 2013, Mr. Pedro Carreño, in his capacity as President of the Parliamentary Audit Committee, pressed criminal charges against the parliamentarian in question, calling for him to be placed under house arrest in view of the alleged flagrante delicto situation;

  • On 12 March 2013, the Prosecutor General’s Office formally requested the Supreme Court to authorize proceedings against Mr. Mardo on accusations of tax fraud and money laundering; the source affirms that only on that day was Mr. Mardo allowed to access the investigation records, which had been compiled without his involvement;

  • In its ruling of 17 July 2013, the Supreme Court requested the National Assembly to lift his parliamentary immunity, “an action which, if taken, is fully in accordance with Article 380 of the Code of Criminal Procedure”;

  • On 30 July 2013, the National Assembly decided to lift Mr. Mardo’s parliamentary immunity,
Considering the following information about the situation of Ms. María Mercedes Aranguren:
  • On 12 November 2013, the National Assembly lifted the parliamentary immunity of Ms. María Mercedes Aranguren so as to allow charges of corruption and criminal association to proceed in court; the source affirms that the case against her is not only baseless, but had been dormant since 2008 and had only been reactivated recently in order to help the ruling party obtain the necessary 99 votes in parliament to adopt the enabling legislation (ley habilitante) investing the President of Venezuela with special powers to rule by decree; the source points out that Ms. Aranguren had switched to the opposition in 2012 and that the lifting of her immunity and her subsequent suspension under Article 380 of the Code of Criminal Procedure from parliament would give, through her deputy, who remained loyal to the ruling party, the majority - the missing 99th vote - to pass the enabling legislation; the source stresses in this regard that, six days after the lifting of her parliamentary immunity,  parliament adopted the enabling legislation, i.e. on 18 November 2013,
Considering that, according to the source, the lifting of parliamentary immunity, inasmuch as it has the effect of suspending the parliamentary mandate, requires a three-fifth majority in the National Assembly, whereas the parliamentary authorities affirm that a simple majority is sufficient; considering also that the source affirms that the suspension of a member of parliament for the duration of the criminal proceedings runs counter to Articles 42 and 49(2) of the Constitution, which the authorities deny,

Considering also that the source expressed fears that the immunity of member of parliament María Corina Machado would soon be lifted, following the announcement by the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, on 20 February 2014, that its Permanent Home Affairs Committee was collecting information that would show Ms. Machado to have participated in terrorist and fascist activities that ran counter to the homeland; that information would be submitted to the Prosecutor General so that he could ask the Supreme Court to allow criminal proceedings to be initiated; on 18 March 2014, in the course of an ordinary session, at the instigation of the Speaker of the National Assembly, the latter adopted a motion in support of starting an investigation into Ms. Machado, with a view to lifting her immunity,

Noting that, in the past, the source also expressed fears that the immunity of Mr. Caldera would be lifted, the source affirms that an illegal audio recording and photos were presented showing several persons framing him in a ploy that made a legal act seem criminal before public opinion, namely the receipt of private funds for a mayor’s pre-campaign; the source points out that, in Venezuela, public funding of political parties and election campaigns is prohibited; it appears that on 20 May 2013 the Prosecutor General asked the Supreme Court to accede to the request that Mr. Caldera be subjected to criminal proceedings; it is unclear whether the Supreme Court has given its opinion on the matter; at the hearing with the Committee, the Venezuelan Deputy Speaker showed pictures that Mr. Caldera had readily fallen into the trap and accepted money for his campaign from an entrepreneur; a parliamentary investigation into Mr. Caldera was under way,

Noting also that, according to the source, several members of the opposition were subjected to physical and verbal aggression by members of the ruling party on 22 January, 16 April and 30 April 2013, as a result of which several parliamentarians were injured; the parliamentary authorities have stated that the opposition parliamentarians had a large responsibility for the violent incidents that occurred in the National Assembly, either directly or indirectly,

Recalling that an IPU mission was due to travel to Venezuela in June 2013 to address, among other things, the issues that had arisen in this case, but that the mission was postponed at the last minute in order to allow the parliamentary authorities more time to organize the requested meetings,

Considering that repeated demonstrations have taken place in Venezuela since February 2014 and that in response President Maduro has called for a national peace conference, calling on all those who can make a contribution, including the church, the opposition, trade unions and civil society, to take part in it,

  1. Thanks the leader of the Venezuelan delegation for his cooperation and the information he provided;

  2. Notes that the parliamentary authorities and the opposition have opposing views regarding the legal and factual basis for the action taken to suspend several opposition parliamentarians, to lift their parliamentary immunity and to subject them to criminal investigation and prosecution;

  3. Believes that the National Assembly should be the place where different views in Venezuela are expressed without fear of reprisal and incitement to violence and where efforts are made to find common ground; is concerned therefore that the National Assembly itself, rather than the judicial authorities, took the initiative, at least in the case of Mr. Mardo and Ms. Machado, to make criminal accusations against members of the opposition, thereby lending weight to the allegation that the justification is therefore political rather than legal;

  4. Is concerned too that, as shown by the cases of Mr. Pilieri, Mr. Blanco and Mr. Alemán, who remain subject to criminal proceedings years after they started, a suspension from parliament for the duration of legal proceedings may practically amount to the loss of one’s parliamentary mandate, thereby denying not only the individual his/her political rights but also his/her electorate’s right to be represented in parliament; notes therefore with concern that efforts are under way towards lifting the immunity of Mr. Caldera and Ms. Machado and hence suspending them from parliament;

  5. Believes, all the more so in light of the latest developments in this case, that a visit to Venezuela would offer a useful and direct opportunity to gain a better understanding of the complex issues at hand; expresses the hope, therefore, that such a visit can take place in the near future; and requests the Secretary General to seek the agreement of the Venezuelan parliamentary authorities for this purpose;

  6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the authorities, the source and any third party likely to be in a position to supply relevant information;

  7. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and to report back to it in due course.

* The delegations of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and the Russian Federation expressed their reservations regarding the resolution.

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