Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela in exile
|Supreme Tribunal of Justice|
Tribunal Supremo de Justicia
Headquarters in Panama
|Authorized by||Constitution of Venezuela|
|No. of positions||33|
|Currently||Miguel Ángel Martín|
Following the death of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuela faced a severe socioeconomic crisis during the presidency of his successor, President Nicolás Maduro, as a result of their policies. Due to the state's high levels of urban violence, inflation, and chronic shortages of basic goods attributed to economic policies such as strict price controls, civil insurrection in Venezuela culminated in the widespread protests in the country.
The discontent with the Bolivarian government saw the opposition being elected to hold the majority in the National Assembly of Venezuela for the first time since 1999 following the 2015 Parliamentary Election. As a result of that election, the Bolivarian officials of the lame duck National Assembly filled the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with their allies.
Following months of unrest surrounding the recall referendum against President Maduro in 2016, on 29 March 2017 the Bolivarian Supreme Tribunal of Justice ruled that the National Assembly was "in a situation of contempt", because of the aforementioned rulings against the election of some of its members. It stripped the Assembly of legislative powers, and took those powers for itself; which meant that the Court would have been able to create laws. The court did not indicate if or when it might hand power back. As a result of the ruling, the 2017 Venezuelan protests began surrounding the constitutional crisis, with the Bolivarian Supreme Tribunal of Justice reversing its ruling on 1 April 2017.
After being stripped of power during the constitutional crisis and the call for a rewriting of the constitution by the Bolivarian government, opposition-led National Assembly of Venezuela created a Judicial Nominations Committee on 13 June 2017 to elect new members of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. On 12 July 2017, Ombudsman Tarek Saab, head of the Moral Council of Venezuela, said that the call for new magistrates would not be officially recognized by the Bolivarian government and that the magistrates already appointed by the lame duck Bolivarian National Assembly would instead continue to be recognized. Despite the rejection of recognition by the Bolivarian government, the opposition-led National Assembly then voted 33 magistrates into office on 21 July 2017, creating a de jure Supreme Tribunal of Justice separate from the Bolivarian government.
On 11 January 2018, the Supreme Tribunal decreed the nullity of the 2013 Venezuelan presidential elections after lawyer Enrique Aristeguita Gramcko presented evidence about the presumed non-existence of ineligibility conditions of Nicolás Maduro to be elected and to hold the office of the presidency. Aristeguieta argued in the appeal that, under Article 96, Section B, of the Political Constitution of Colombia, Nicolás Maduro Moros, even in the unproven case of having been born in Venezuela, is "Colombian by birth" because he is the son of a Colombian mother and by having resided in that territory during his youth. The Constitutional Chamber admitted the demand and requested the presidency and the Electoral Council to send a certified copy of the president's birth certificate, in addition to his resignation from Colombian nationality.
On 2 July 2018, the Supreme Tribunal ruled that Maduro was no longer the legitimate President of Venezuela and called for the opposition-led National Assembly of Venezuela to appoint a new President of Venezuela. The ruling was supported by Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro. Days later on 9 July 2018, the Supreme Tribunal ordered CICPC to arrest Maduro and present him to them to face trial.
Maduro was sentenced unanimously to 18 years and 3 months in prison on 15 August 2018 by the tribunal, with the exiled high court stating "there is enough evidence to establish the guilt ... [of] corruption and legitimation of capital". The Organization of American States supported the verdict and asked for the Venezuelan National Assembly to recognize the TSJ in exile's ruling.
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, has shown support for the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in exile. The Senate of Chile and the Chamber of Deputies of Chile also recognized the TSJ in exile as the legitimate judicial branch of Venezuela.
However, the current Maduro government does not recognize the Tribunal.
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