Venezuela: Former Prosecutor Laments Systematic Torture, Hundreds of Political Prisoners

Venezuela's chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, 59, says her relatives have received threats since she has emerged as the biggest challenge to President Nicolas Maduro's authority

An NGO operating in Venezuela has updated their count of political prisoners in the country to 439, days after Luisa Ortega Díaz, the nation’s former prosecutor general, accused the socialist regime of systematic torture and “the annihilation of the justice system.”

Ortega Díaz fled the country this summer after accusing dictator Nicolás Maduro of flagrant human rights violations and a rupture in the democratic order.

The Venezuelan Penal Forum meanwhile, an NGO that tracks human rights abuses in the country, announced that the number of political prisoners in the country had dwindled somewhat since the peak of daily protests in the country this summer. Alfredo Romero, the group’s executive director, announced that 439 civilians remain imprisoned for opposition to socialism in the country, down from over 600 in August due to the release of 53 individuals.

The Penal Forum recently accused the Venezuelan regime of denying medical care to political prisoners, specifically noting that, of 45 known cases of prisoners of conscience in need of significant medical attention, only two have been placed under house arrest. Venezuelans not currently imprisoned also struggle to receive medical care due to the near complete shortage of medical supplies around the country, a product of the socialist regime’s gross mismanagement of the economy for the past 17 years.

The Penal Forum’s findings are consistent with a report published last week by the Organization of American States (OAS), which found that “thousands” of Venezuelans have been “injured and arbitrarily detained by state security forces during protests.” In addition, the number detained in the long term increased over 430 percent between the beginning of the latest series of protests in March and late July, when that number peaked to 620 prisoners.

“Just as with military dictatorships of the past century, the government of Venezuela has systematically tortured detained people,” the OAS continued, citing 120 new cases of torture documented between June 15 and August.

In remarks in Peru this week, Ortega Díaz also accused the government of torture. “People have fewer and fewer rights and attempting to exercise any of them can turn them into criminal cases, whether fabricated crimes with planted ‘proof’ or without due process,” she stated. “Imprisonment, being held incommunicado, and torture have become common practice in Venezuela.”

“What has been installed in Venezuela is not a state of rights, but a despotic state,” she continued. “This is about an extremely powerful repression apparatus and the grand-scale execution of corruption, [which are] responsible for the grave crisis my country is living.”

Ortega Díaz accused Maduro’s socialist regime of “the annihilation of the system of justice,” particularly following the rendering of the democratically-elected legislature, the National Assembly, void and its replacement with a fabricated socialist body called the “national constituents assembly.” The prosecutor fled Venezuela after the socialist government accused her of treason for condemning the widespread use of violence against protesters despite being a socialist herself, fleeing to Colombia and now embarking on a regional tour to expose the crimes of her former employers.

Survivors of the Venezuelan socialist “justice” system have provided human rights advocates with harrowing stories of torture behind bars. Liberated prisoners say they have been systematically beaten, disfiguredforced to eat pasta laced with human excrement, been raped and forced to watch the rape of female prisoners.

“The use of torture, sex crimes, and systematic murder of unarmed civilians who protest in the streets amount to crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute,” former United Nations Security Council president Diego Arria told the UN in September. The UN had already accused Venezuela of over 5,000 individual instances of torture in a Committee Against Torture meeting in 2014.

Venezuela is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which has taken no action against the Maduro regime.

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