August 2, 2017
The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concern about the treatment of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Dìaz in Venezuela.
Luisa Ortega Dìaz has been Venezuela’s lead prosecutor since 2007. More recently, she has been viewed as one of the few critical voices within Venezuela’s government, known for protecting and defending human rights.
It has come to the Law Society’s attention that on June 27, 2017, the Supreme Court issued two rulings that undermine the powers of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Dìaz, who has been openly questioning the state’s policies and practices. The first granted the Ombudsman Office-which has failed to act as a check on the executive-powers to participate in criminal investigations, and the second removed the deputy attorney general, who had been recently appointed by Luisa Ortega Dìaz, from office.
Luisa Ortega Dìaz responded by accusing the Supreme Court of violating the Constitution – citing repressed demonstrations, military court trials of civilians, searches without judicial warrants and a lack of evidence against those accused of committing crimes. She is quoted as stating that, “the right to participate and to choose has been undermined by the government”.
It is the Law Society’s understanding that on June 28, 2017, the Supreme Court issued precautionary measures, forbidding Luisa Ortega Dìaz from leaving the country and freezing her assets and bank accounts.
The Law Society of Upper Canada is deeply troubled by Luisa Ortega Dìaz’s treatment, particularly in light of reports of increasing social and political unrest and threats to the rule of law in Venezuela. Human Rights Watch reports, “…the judiciary has ceased to function as an independent branch of government. Members of the Supreme Court have openly rejected the principle of separation of powers, and publicly pledged their commitment to advancing the government’s political agenda.”Furthermore, in the wake of nationwide demonstrations, hundreds of civilians have been prosecuted in military courts in Venezuela, in violation of both Venezuelan and international law. Human Rights Watch notes that there is no public record of these proceedings and accounts from lawyers and family members include “…many disturbing allegations of abuses and procedural defects in the conduct of these prosecutions…”