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UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges rejects intimidation of Venezuela’s Attorney General

GENEVA (30 June 2017) - The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, has questioned the recent decision by the Venezuelan Supreme Court freezing the assets of the country’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, and preventing her from leaving the country.

The decision by the court follows other recent rulings transferring powers from the Public Prosecution Service to the Ombudsman.

“This is yet another step against the democratic institutions and autonomy of the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor,” said the Special Rapporteur.

“Two decisions by the Supreme Court this week seriously affect the independence and functions of the Attorney General and the Public Ministry. The first annuls the appointment of the Deputy Attorney General, transferring the powers of the position to the Supreme Court itself; while the second interferes in investigations by the Public Prosecution Service, removing its powers and giving them to the office of the Ombudsman,” Mr. García-Sayán explained.

The measures by the Supreme Court restricting the rights of the Attorney General will remain in force until a hearing scheduled for 4 July 2017, during which a decision will be taken on whether to prosecute her.  She has been accused by a Government MP of “serious misconduct” in the exercise of public office.

The Special Rapporteur urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its decisions and to abandon all measures and orders that reduce the functions granted legally and constitutionally to the Public Prosecution Service and the Attorney General of Venezuela, as well as acts that affect the individual rights of Ms. Ortega Díaz.

“Any investigation of judicial actions must be carried out in a transparent manner and with strict respect for due process and the legal system,” the Special Rapporteur emphasized.

“It is essential to avoid any kind of intimidation against the Attorney General. The independence and ability of the person holding that office to investigate crimes, including human rights violations, is necessary for the functioning of a democratic system,” the UN expert said.

The Special Rapporteur made clear that he would follow closely events as they unfolded in Venezuela, in fulfillment of his mandate to ensure the independence of judges and prosecutors around the world.

ENDS

Mr. Diego García-Sayán (Peru) has been Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and magistrates since December 2016.  As Special Rapporteur, Mr. García-Sayán is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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