GENEVA – The United Nations’ human rights office said on Friday it was deeply concerned about a decision by Venezuela’s Supreme Court to strip the country’s attorney general of her post, freeze her assets and ban her from leaving the country.
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, a former supporter of President Nicolas Maduro’s government, became a critic after the Supreme Court tried to curtail the opposition-held Congress of its legislative powers and has since come under increasing pressure from her political adversaries.
“The decision by the Venezuelan Supreme Court on 28 June to begin removal proceedings against the Attorney General, freeze her assets and ban her from leaving the country is deeply worrying, as is the ongoing violence in the country,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN statement also criticized the Supreme Court Constitutional Chamber’s decision to allocate Ortega’s post to Ombudsman Tarek William Saab, who is to act as caretaker and who will be granted powers usually reserved for the attorney general.
That procedure violates Venezuelan law, the OHCHR said.
“The dismissal of judicial officials should be subject to strict criteria that do not undermine the independent and impartial performance of their functions,” the statement said, adding that prosecutors should not face intimidation, hindrance or harassment.
This latest OHCHR interjection is set to a backdrop of increasing political violence in Venezuela, a country that has undergone months of deadly street protests resulting in clashes between security forces loyal to Maduro and demonstrators calling on the president to stand down.
Some 75 people have died and another 1,419 people have been injured so far in the unrest.
The OHCHR raised its concerns about reports suggesting that Venezuelan security officials had conducted raids without warrants and had detained people allegedly with the aim to dissuade them from protesting.
The statement urged the Venezuelan government to respect the constitution and the right to peaceful protest.
Finally, the OHCHR called on all Venezuelans to only use peaceful means and to renounce violence.