Weimar. The German Judges' Association (DRB) has awarded its Human Rights Prize to Venezuelan judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni.
The prize shines a "spotlight into the darkness of injustice," said the President of the Federal Court of Justice, Bettina Limperg, in her laudation. At the same time, she said, this publicity is also associated with protection for the prize winners personally.
Afiuni (born 1964) was unable to accept the prize in person because she is not allowed to leave the country. In December 2009, she was arrested by political police on flimsy charges of corruption for releasing a businessman from more than two years of pretrial detention. Venezuela's then-ruler Hugo Chávez called for Afiuni to serve 30 years in prison in a televised address. She was sent to a women's prison and, according to her own statements, was mistreated. Suffering from cancer, she was released for treatment in February 2011, initially placed under house arrest, and conditionally released in mid-2013. Afiuni was finally sentenced to five years in prison in March 2019. To this day, she is not allowed to work in her profession or hold a bank account.
Afiuni said in a video message, "I accept this wonderful award on behalf of all the voices that have not been heard, all the faces that have not been seen, all those who have left this world without being able to experience the restoration of our rights." In her laudation, Limperg stressed that Chávez had wanted to make an example of Afiuni in order to spread a climate of fear among members of the judiciary. "It also personally wrings from me an indescribable respect when people assert their liberties, demand them for themselves and, above all, for others, even when they are quite directly and inescapably punished so harshly for it, as we see in almost all dictatorships." Whether in Venezuela, in China, in Afghanistan, in Iraq or even in Russia, "the price of freedom and human rights is high."
The DRB's Human Rights Award has been presented since 1991. The association honors outstanding personalities from the judiciary or the legal profession who have made a special commitment to human rights and the rule of law around the world. Traditionally, the Federal President also receives the DRB award winners. This year's award took place on Wednesday as part of the 23rd Judges' and Prosecutors' Day, which is meeting in Weimar until Friday.