Bogota, November 17 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuela’s fugitive former Attorney General Luisa Ortega petitioned the Hague’s International Criminal Court Thursday to bring trial proceedings against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for crimes against humanity.
Ortega claims that government officials, including Maduro, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and intelligence chief Gustavo Gonzalez, are responsible for 8,290 deaths carried out by security forces between 2015 and 2017.
“[They occurred] under the orders of the executive branch, as part of a social cleansing plan carried out by the government,” she told reporters in the Hague.
Ortega alleges that human rights violations took place between April and July this year, when violent anti-government protests rocked the country leading to at least 125 deaths. Those killed include bystanders, security personnel and both government and opposition supporters.
The former attorney general also claims that arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and torture also occurred under the government’s flagship anti-crime program known as “Operation Liberate the People” (OLP). Ortega said that she had submitted 1000 pieces of evidence to the court in support of her allegations.
Launched in 2015, the police operation is aimed at tackling the country’s notoriously high levels of violent crime and criminal organizations. Though it has proved popular among the national population, with surveys suggesting that it garners support from over 80% of Venezuelans, the OLP has been criticized by human rights groups.
But the government has insisted that any violations carried out by security officials involved in the operation are not representative of state policy and will be punished with the full weight of the law. Eleven members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) were arrested in November 2016 for their role in a massacre of twelve people as part of the OLP.
Ortega fled to Colombia in August after being removed of her position by Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly for alleged grave misconduct. Her successor, human rights activist Tarek William Saab, states that he has found evidence of a massive extortion ring orchestrated by Ortega and her husband during her ten year stint as chief attorney.
The International Criminal Court has the authority to investigate and try individuals accused of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when a nation state is deemed unable to carry out the process itself.
In 2006, the court threw out a case brought by the Venezuelan opposition claiming that they had suffered crimes against humanity at the hands of the government. The ICC has yet to officially respond to Ortega’s accusations.