|Judge María Lourdes Afiuni and Attorney General Luisa Marvelia Ortega Día|
The international media is finally describing Venezuela's government for what it is: a brutal dictatorship. Mercosur booted Venezuela out But Venezuela has been a dictatorship for some time and the dismantling of democratic institutions was already far advances in 2009. Venezuela was suspended from MERCOSUR on August 5, 2017 after the breakdown of the democratic order and non-compliance with the protocol of Ushuaia. Nevertheless the end of any semblance of an independent judiciary was seen in Venezuela eight years ago.
Judge María Lourdes Afiuni ruled that a near three year pretrial detention ran afoul of the two year limit prescribed in Venezuelan law and authorized the conditional liberty of Eligio Cedeño, a banker accused of corruption on December 10, 2009. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions had already declared Cedeño's detention arbitrary. The judge was detained that same day, ironically on human rights day, and jailed.
The next day President Hugo Chávez called the Judge a "bandit"who should be jailed for thirty years. Days later Chávez reaffirmed that Judge Afiuni was "correctly jailed" and advocated that she be sentenced to 35 years in prison. She was charged by prosecutors in January of 2010 with "corruption, abuse of authority, and “favoring evasion of justice.” Prosecutors provided no credible evidence to substantiate the charges." She was held for over a year in prison during which "Judge Afiuni was raped and suffered physical and psychological violence, including death threats from other inmates." She was then transferred to house arrest. In June of 2013, Judge Afiuni was released on bail, while her trial, which began in 2012, continued. In 2013 her house arrest was lifted as she began a battle against cancer. Chavez died on March 5, 2013 but the trial against the judge began to suffer delays, which apparently violate Venezuelan law continuing to the present day. Judge Afiuni is barred from practicing law, leaving the country, or using her bank account or social networks.
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz entered the controversy on this case denying that the Judge Afiuni had been sexually assaulted, tortured and mistreated by agents of the Chavez regime. This whitewash provoked a response from the Judge. According to Afiuni's Attorney Thelma Fernández on June 30, 2015 Judge María Lourdes Afiuni broke her silence explaining to the court "how the INOF guards and officials of the Ministry of Justice sexually abused her and destroyed her vagina, anus and bladder." ... "The evidence of ill treatment, torture and sexual abuse against Afiuni is contained in the case file and at the United Nations; for this reason, experts, rapporteurs and commissioners of international organizations have issued so many statements in relation to the case. It is not that they are biased, as hinted and said by Luisa Ortega Díaz. It is just that all the evidence confirms all that happened to the judge."
The situation has deteriorated even further under Nicolas Maduro to the point that Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz who had been the Attorney General of Venezuela from December 13, 2007 until August 5, 2017 would not grant a blank check for the Venezuelan regime's outlaw behavior. Now she is facing the same dangers as Judge Afiuni. On June 29, 2017 Maduro's rubber stamp Supreme Court froze her assets and barred her from leaving the country due to "alleged serious misconduct." Attorney General Ortega. Hours earlier according to a June 29, 2017 Voice of America article: she charged the Maduro regime with "state terrorism" and promised to "defend the constitution and democracy even with my life, I swear." She had also been critical of Maduro's constituent assembly and the irregularities surrounding the vote that brought into existence. The new assembly on August 5, 2017 removed her from office even though her term was supposed to last until 2021.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a precautionary measure for Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz on August 3, 2017 citing their concern "that Ms. Luisa Ortega Díaz and her family are in a serious and urgent situation as their rights to life and integrity face an imminent risk of irreparable harm." The IACHR goes into greater detail on how they arrived at their decision:
"In making this decision, the Commission identified the role and visibility of Attorney General Ortega as the operator of justice in denouncing violations of human rights and of alleged violations of the legal and constitutional framework, that are allegedly a consequence of the processes related to the Constituent Assembly. Among the risk factors taken into account by the Commission are various statements and stigmatizing pronouncements, some from high ranking officials, which had linked the Attorney General with “terrorist” acts, qualifying her as a traitor to the government; the alleged persecution aimed at removing her from office and reducing her powers; as well as the threats that had been made against her outside the Office of the Public Prosecutor, with the presence of an armed person on one occasion."The rule of law in Venezuela ended in 2009 when Judge Afiuni was arrested, raped and tortured for following the law and running afoul of the whims of then President Hugo Chavez. The continuing arbitrary nature of the Maduro regime and its escalating violence against nonviolent dissidents should indicate to reasonable observers that former
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz is in great danger.