Puebla, Mexico, July 13, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s highest court moved Wednesday to further limit the powers of Attorney General Luisa Ortega, restricting her office’s powers to prosecute.
In its latest decision, the Supreme Court (TSJ) ruled the attorney general cannot press criminal charges without first seeking approval from a sitting judge. In its ruling, the TSJ stated the decision was made “with the purpose of avoiding a possible violation of constitutional rights that could lead to an irreparable legal damage”.
“[This will] safeguard the independence of the actions of the judges … [in] the criminal justice system, as well as the rights of the victims in these processes,” the court stated.
The move is the latest in a protracted battle between the TSJ and Ortega, and effectively limits her powers to prosecute without judicial approval. Ortega herself ordered eight TSJ judges be put on trial for conspiracy in June. She also called for the judges to be stripped of their immunity from prosecution, and removed from office. The order was quickly quashed by the TSJ, which ruled that judges could only be removed by a two thirds majority vote within the TSJ.
Once a close ally of President Nicolas Maduro, in recent months Ortega has accused the government of violating the constitution by calling a constituent assembly without holding a prioer consultative referendum. Once elected later this month, the constituent assembly will have the power to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution. While Maduro has argued the assembly could help Venezuela overcome its current political crisis by further empowering social movements, the right-wing opposition has labeled it a power grab amid widespread protests and unrest.
Ortega has also accused the government of using excessive force, including against violent, often armed opposition protesters. Meanwhile, Ortega herself has faced allegations of failing to prosecute violent offenders, and is now facing possible impeachment proceedings. The proceedings were called by socialist legislator Pedro Carreño, who has accused Ortega of violating “the fundamental principles established in the constitution by undertaking acts of political, trade union, or party activism”.
Ortega refused to attend a hearing last week on the allegations.
More than 100 people have died amid Venezuela’s current wave of political unrest. At least 27 deaths are suspected to have been caused by the actions of violent protesters, while at least 13 have been linked to state security forces.