Venezuela: dismissal of Attorney General a further blow to the rule of law and accountability

The dismissal of Luisa Ortega was a politically motivated act that violates international standards, removes one of the last remaining institutional checks on executive authority and further entrenches impunity for gross human rights violations in the country, the ICJ says in a Briefing Paper.

The dismissal of the Attorney General Dr Luisa Ortega Díaz (photo) was undertaken by a body not competent or empowered by Venezuelan law to do so, nor in observance of the established procedure and grounds defined in the law, the ICJ concluded in the Briefing Paper.

The dismissal also violated international standards regarding the independence of prosecutors.

“The dismissal of Attorney General Ortega Díaz appears to have been a measure taken in retaliation to her increasing challenges to Government initiatives and its expanded control over the legislature and judiciary, as well as her demands for accountability for gross human rights violations in the country,” said Alex Conte, ICJ’s Global Accountability coordinator.

“Her dismissal removes one of the last institutional checks on executive authority and destroys one of the few glimmers of hope for an end to impunity for gross human rights violations in the country,” Conte addedd.

“She must be reinstated and the independence of the Office of Public Prosecutions respected.”

Under Venezuela’s Organic Law of the Office of Public Prosecutions, which remains in force, removal of the Attorney General can only be on account of ‘serious misconduct’ (as defined by the law) and as a result of an absolute majority vote in the National Assembly, after confirmation by the Supreme Court of Justice.

“The purported grounds of misconduct by the Attorney General fall well short of the prescribed definition of serious misconduct under the Organic Law,” Conte said.

Ortega Díaz has at least in recent times been an outspoken critic of the Government led by President Nicolás Maduro.

She has been replaced by Tareck William Saab, a close political ally of President Maduro.

She has initiated several investigations and brought charges against State officials for the death of persons killed during public demonstrations; challenged decisions of the Supreme Court of Justice suspending the constitutional powers of the former National Assembly; challenged the appointment and conduct of Supreme Court judges; and challenged the convening of elections for the new Constituent National Assembly.

Since she began to criticize Government initiatives and take legal action to re-establish the rule of law, the Attorney General and her family have been the targets of multiple attacks, threats, harassment and campaigns of denigration and stigmatization by Government officials.

“This is not a question of the Attorney General’s politics but, rather, a significant assault on the effective administration of justice in Venezuela at a time when the rule of law is near collapse,” Conte added.


Alex Conte, ICJ Global Redress and Accountability Initiative, t: +41 79 957 2733; email: alex.conte(a)

Federico Andreu Guzman, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, Americas, email: Federico.andreu(a)

Venezuela-AG dismissal-Advocacy-Analysis Brief-2017-ENG (briefing paper in PDF)

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