Since many civilian judges are not supporting the Venezuelan government, it is reported that dictator Nicolas Maduro is sending civilian protesters to military courts with charges of “terrorism” and “inciting rebellion,” or sedition.
Trying civilians on civilian criminal charges in military courts is a direct violation of the Venezuelan constitution, the federal criminal code, and “human rights treaties signed by the Republic,” the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional notes.
The NGO Foro Penal (Criminal Justice Forum), along with the opposition party coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), claim that at least 75 people were brought to military tribunal for peaceful protests against the government and another 40 are awaiting trial.
NGO attorney Alfredo Romero, who is representing these civilians in court, said that many of these individuals are facing charges of looting, not political activity.
“Supposedly, these people are detained for having participated in looting, but the charges in their records have nothing to do with that,” he explained. “To give you a specific example, one person from whom the police confiscated four pieces of ham is facing charges of contempt and sedition. Now they claim he was insulting the guards. Most are charged this way.”
The group of people facing a military trial includes 18 individuals believed to have toppled the statue of the late dictator Hugo Chavez in Zulia last week. Some of the arrested were detained for taking photos of the process and not actually participating in it. One of these, a man identified as José Martínez, is being processed in a military tribunal under charges of “terrorism.”
Venezuela’s minister of defense, Vladimir Padrino López, allegedly confirmed the use of military tribunals for civilians on Tuesday by saying:
“When there is an aggression against a guard or a member of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB), or property of the FANB, military charges and military jurisdiction perfectly applies.”