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REDACTED Page 69 of 190 Metropolitan Area Judicial Circuit, Venicce Blanco268 found that she had been asked to resign if she did not sign the order. After refusing to do so, she was illegally dismissed by the Judicial Commission of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. Her removal from office was even criticized by the then-United Nations Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.269 i. On 11 August 2009, Judge Elías Álvarez, a tenured judge in charge of the First Instance Court of the Criminal Circuit of Caracas was suspended by the Judicial Commission suspended while he presided over the Súmate case. His suspension was later revised. Most recently, Álvarez allegedly confessed being subject to pressures from the GoV regarding his rulings.270 j. María Lourdes Afiuni, a judge of 31 Control Court of Caracas has been imprisoned since December 2009 for ruling on the release of a political prisoner who had been detained for almost three years without charge. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had previously found that this political prisoner had been held in violation of Venezuela’s international legal obligations. 271 President Chávez 268 EL UNIVERSAL. (2009) Podemos presenta evidencias de intimidación a ex jueza Alicia Torres. El Universal. [Online] 28 July. Available from: presenta-evi_28A2551763.shtml [Accessed 25 August, 2015] 269 UN RAPPORTEUR. (2009). Preocupante la Situación de la Justicia en Venezuela. United Nations. [Online] 30 July. Available from: [Accessed 12 September, 2015] 270 IACHR. (2009) Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela; YAJURE, J.A. (2014) Esto es lo que Runrun averiguó sobre 48 aspirantes a magistrados del TSJ. Runrun. [Online] 11 December. Available from: aspirantes-magistrados-del-tsj.html [Accessed 25 August, 2015]; spanish/T2%20ST03b%20N3%20Caso%20Tulio%20Alvarez%20febrero%202005.pdf [Accessed 7 September, 2015] 271 One of the judges targeted by the Chávez regime was María Lourdes Afiuni, a judge who was imprisoned in December 2009 after one of her rulings angered President Chávez. Afiuni’s offense was her having ordered the release of Eligio Cedeño, a banker who was a political prisoner who had been detained for almost three years without trial. In ruling in Cedeño’s favor, Afiuni had applied Venezuelan law and also cited to an opinion on Cedeño’s case from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which found that he was being held in violation of Venezuela’s international legal obligations. Nevertheless, three days after Afiuni’s arrest, President Chávez demanded that she be imprisoned for thirty years. Widely considered one of Venezuela’s highest-profile political prisoners, Afiuni was subsequently imprisoned in a jail that also housed violent offenders she herself had sentenced.68 The Working Group declared that she was arbitrarily detained, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called for her to be tried or released. Afiuni was granted house arrest in February 2011 because of a serious medical condition. She was ultimately released from house arrest in June 2013, but to comply with the conditions of her release, she must report to the court in Caracas every 14 days and is banned from leaving the country without permission or speaking to the media. See: THE ECONOMIST. (2011) Criminals or Dissidents? The Economist. [Online] 17 February. Available from: [Accessed 25 August, 2015]; also see: Eligio Cedeño vs Government of Venezuela, Opinion No. 10/2009, adopted 28 May 2009, para 53;

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