The International Bar Association’s human rights institute (IBAHRI) has called for the immediate release of a Venezuelan lawyer who was arrested in what the institute believes to be the latest in a series of attacks against the independence of the legal profession in Venezuela.
Tadeo Arrieche Franco has been held since being arrested on 8 February. He was acting on behalf of Dia Dia, which is being investigated by the Venezuelan government in relation to a new law, the Just Prices Act, which imposes prison sentences for 'destabilising’ the economy. His trial is scheduled to start on 15 May.
Dia Dia owner Jose Vicente Aguerrevere has denied accusations of hoarding products to stoke public exasperation.
IBAHRI co-chair Helena Kennedy said: ‘We respectfully remind Venezuela’s authorities that the UN Basic Principles on the role of lawyers states that “lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions”. [Arrieche Franco’s] arrest as the lawyer of Dia Dia is, therefore, in clear violation of the international standards that Venezuela is obliged to uphold.’
The IBAHRI said Arrieche Franco’s arrest and prosecution was the latest in a series of attacks against the independence of the legal profession in Venezuela. Last year it published a report stating the Venezuelan justice system did not contain ’adequate systemic safeguards’ to guarantee judicial independence. Local lawyers have also publicly demanded respect for the rule of law (pictured).
Co-chair Hans Corell said: ‘We are shocked that the government continues to arrest and prosecute members of the legal profession while they exercise their professional duties.
‘We call on the Venezuelan authorities to respect their constitutional and international obligations to uphold the rule of law and immediately drop all charges levied against [Arrieche Franco] and release him immediately.’