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Justice and change: a false dichotomy

Illustration: Víctor Solís

As July 28, the date set for the presidential election, approaches, proposals have begun to emerge from some sectors that present themselves as opposition to those in power, who assume that any attempt at justice is an act of revenge that reduces Chavismo’s incentives to leave power, if it loses the election.

To give legitimacy to the recommendations, these proposals are being presented as the result of extensive consultation with civil society. However, no family, victim or human rights organization has been consulted about these proposals that aim at impunity for serious human rights violations, as a mechanism for Chavismo to agree to cede power peacefully.

It is harmful to the transition itself that a small group abrogates the representation of civil society, without taking into account the voice of the millions of victims of the Tascón list, those imprisoned, tortured and executed because of their legitimate exercise of freedom. of expression, of peaceful assembly and association and endless etcetera.

In this sense, AlertaVenezuela endorses the reflections of the communicator, human rights defender and victim of forced disappearance Luis Carlos Díaz, in that any “political agreement” that seeks to eliminate the investigation into Venezuelan perpetrators in the International Criminal Court (ICC) must be rejected not only as harmful and complicit in impunity, but also as ignorant.

The justice process at the ICC, like many others, must be shielded from political interests. Justice is a right of victims that cannot be hijacked by any political bias. Rather it needs to be accompanied with absolute seriousness by all interested parties to protect the process and free it from blackmail.

With the proposals on the table, the intention to “turn the page”, “leave behind” or pressure the victims and their families to “swallow toads” is being taken very far, as if today the allies of power could dictate which toads to swallow. They are being embarrassed every time they suggest that justice can be an obstacle to peace, when the opposite is true. The problem is that they approach this issue from two angles, pride and do-goodism, which in a certain way believe that justice implies persecution or revenge, something wrong, or they assume that nullifying the right to justice can facilitate any political negotiation, which is why called “exit costs.” That is wrong. They are doing it wrong and are re-victimizing an entire society.

It is absurd that these types of proposals have a place in diplomatic spaces, institutes, academies and other instances where lobbying is taking place, for a simple reason: they do not respond to human rights standards. They would not be acceptable in other societies. It does not fit in the Venezuela that wants to be built with freedom, democracy, truth, memory, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. So, the best thing is to stop trampling on the dignity of others and be more serious if you want to talk about transition, changes and democratization. With an anti-rights agenda they are not going to get very far without people realizing that they work for impunity.

Ignorance of these proposals is also reflected in the attempt to decide on agreements on processes that are before international courts, without understanding that these are non-negotiable and continue their course once it has been agreed to investigate based on verified facts. It is regrettable to note that such “transition” proposals assume that international justice or universal justice is managed according to the same logic of total absence of independence, as happens in Venezuela and that, consequently, it can be manipulated for political purposes.

The history of the end of the last century in Latin America was full of amnesty formulas and “Clean Slate” laws, which served to attempt political negotiations, but which were reversed when international human rights bodies established that they are mechanisms of impunity, incompatible with international human rights commitments.

Some of the proposals that are circulating seek to exchange pardons for serious human rights violations for events – undoubtedly unconstitutional – that occurred under the phenomenon of the interim government that began in 2019. Participating in a provisional government whose origin was based on a bias interpretation of the constitution, cannot be compared with the disappearance, execution and torture of thousands of people, since the latter are crimes against humanity, the former are not. Nor can sovereignty be invoked or those who judge these crimes be considered foreign courts, since these are crimes that can be tried in courts beyond the borders, whose jurisdiction has been sovereignly and voluntarily recognized by Venezuela.

The international community must remain firm in the non-negotiable international principles of truth, justice, reparation, guarantees of non-recurrence and memory and refrain from promoting or supporting any proposal that seeks to use impunity as a bargaining token. Likewise, it must be taken into account that the spokespersons for such proposals are not representatives of the majority of civil society and much less of the victims, their families and the human rights organizations that accompany them in their just demands. Using the victims as pawns in a supposed transition process is not a transition but a denial of the essence of democracy.