Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and International Legal Counsel to Venezuelan Democratic Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez, made the following statement in his capacity also as Founder and Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, which has taken up the case and cause of Leopoldo Lopez:
The postponement, yet again, of Leopoldo Lopez’ Appeal Hearing is a standing – and continuing – violation of Mr. Lopez’s fundamental rights under both the Venezuelan constitution and international law, including,
I. Denial of – and criminalization – of Leopoldo Lopez’ fundamental right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of political participation as guaranteed under both the Venezuelan constitution and international treaties to which Venezuela is a state party.
Indeed the arresting detention, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of Leopoldo Lopez on September 11 2015 to close to 15 years imprisonment – following upon the initial arrest, detention, and deprivation of liberty from February 18 2014 mocks both Venezuelan constitutional law and its international law obligations.
II. Denial of – and violation of – Leopoldo Lopez’ right to a fair hearing and fair trial under both domestic Venezuelan law and international law, including, in particular:
1. Denial of – and violation – of the foundational principle of the
presumption of innocence.
2. Denial of Leopoldo Lopez’s right to an independent and
3. Denial of Leopoldo Lopez’ right to present his defence.
4. Denial of Leopoldo Lopez’s right to attorney-client
III. The extended solitary confinement of Leopoldo Lopez, in violation of the prohibition against torture.
IV. Harassment and intimidation of leopoldo Lopez’s wife, mother, and family.
Accordingly, it is not surprising, and bears recall, that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had determined his imprisonment was arbitrary and called for his release “forthwith,” and for “full redress”.
Moreover, as cited by the Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in his statement of July 7: “The working group’s Chair-Rapporteur, Seong-Phil Hong, said that the sentence was issued after a 19-month-long trial conducted behind closed doors and marked by serious irregularities, where due process and a fair trial were not respected, the basis of the allegations was not published, the accused was not allowed to exercise his right to an adequate defence, and the supporting evidence he offered was not accepted.”
We join Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, and heads of state and foreign ministers in Latin America, Europe, and the U.S. in calling for Leopoldo Lopez’s release and the release of all political prisoners in Venezuela.
As Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion put it, “Canada believes that denying freedom of political participation not only contradicts Venezuela’s international obligations, but also prevents resolution of the serious crisis facing the country… The single most tangible action President Nicolás Maduro can take to demonstrate his commitment to dialogue is to release his political opponents, including not only Leopoldo López but also Antonio Ledezma, Daniel Ceballos and others.”