On Saturday, December 5th, the World Jurist Association (WJA) published a declaration signed by over 1,000 legal professionals from various countries. The declaration was published one day before the December 6th Venezuelan parliamentary elections. According to the legal specialists, these elections: “lack the necessary guarantees to be considered valid elections.”
The elections haven’t been recognized by either the European Union or the Organization of American States. According to the statement of the WJA professionals, the elections “will be null and void” under international law.
The WJA has its seat in Washington, DC. Javier Cremades-Garcia, a Spanish attorney, currently serves as president. The Association stated they wanted to “warn the world’s public opinion about Nicolas Maduro’s attempts to elect a new National Assembly through a vote that does not meet the minimum democratic requirements.”
The declaration continued: “After five years of disregard for the Assembly by an illegitimate executive, the elections convened will be held amidst evident signs of lack of transparency, and harassment towards the few unwelcomed candidates for the government.”
Signatories of the accompanying Declaration noted: “The Supreme Court of Justice, in contravention of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, appointed the five directors of the National Electoral Council, thereby permitting them to modify the electoral laws at their discretion.”
Those signing the WJA declaration include Alvaro Rodriguez Berejio, President Emeritus of the Spanish Constitutional Court, and writer of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. It was also signed by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and former European Commissioner for Justice.
Other signatories were: David Mills, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School; Augusto Trujillo, President of the Colombian Academy of Jurisprudence; and Johann Kriegler. Kriegler served as Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa until 2002. He’s considered an authority on electoral processes.
With respect to the Venezuelan elections, Kriegler said: “today we are witnessing the steps taken by an old democracy towards the strengthening of a dictatorship.” Krieger was Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, which conducted the first post-apartheid elections with real universal suffrage in his country. He was a collaborator of Nelson Mandela.
The WJA said their conclusion and declaration were based on confirmed data regarding the absence of political and legal guarantees. These, they stated, were necessary for elections to be considered free and democratic. The conclusion of those signing the formal declaration: “Such elections are invalid and [we] reject their celebration.”
Given the situation, the WJA stated: “to guarantee the protection of human rights in the country, the legitimacy of the current Venezuelan National Assembly must be preserved until genuine free, inclusive and democratic elections are convened.”
Beyond questions about their transparency, the December 6th elections were held amid a serious crisis in the country. Eighty percent of Venezuelans are now considered to be in extreme poverty. The Coronavirus pandemic has left 912 dead in that South American country.
During these elections some 20 million Venezuelans were asked to choose 277 deputies among 14,400 candidates. However, this huge range of contestants didn’t include the main opposition leaders. These opted to abstain from participation in the elections, which they considered fraudulent.
Even though the leading opposition figures weren’t on the ballot, some of their parties did appear. The idea being to demonstrate that there was opposition participation. However, Maduro’s Supreme Court had disqualified those parties’ leadership and put his allies to head them.