CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s sacked former chief prosecutor yesterday asked the International Criminal Court to capture and try President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials for crimes against humanity over murders by police and military officers.
Luisa Ortega, who broke with Maduro this year after working closely with the ruling Socialist Party for a decade, was fired in August after she opposed Maduro’s plan to create an all-powerful legislature called the Constituent Assembly. She fled the country and has traveled the world denouncing alleged acts of corruption and violations of human rights.
Ortega said her complaint, filed on Wednesday with the Hague-based tribunal, was prompted by some 8,290 deaths between 2015 and 2017 at the hands of officials who received instructions the government.
“(They happened) under the orders of the executive branch, as part of a social cleansing plan carried out by the government,” she told reporters in the Hague.
The government did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
The accusation refers to incidents of torture, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrest. Some of them took place during a crackdown on anti-government protests that rocked the country between April and July and left at least 125 people dead, some of them at the hands of military and police officers.
The Maduro government accused Ortega of turning a blind eye to violence by opposition supporters, and has also leveled a raft of corruption charges at her.
Ortega’s request also makes reference to killings that took place during police raids known as “Operations to Free the People,” which have been heavily criticized by human rights groups since they began in 2015.
“Nicolas Maduro and his government must pay for this,” she said.
The complaint also accuses top officials such as Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and intelligence chief Gustavo Gonzalez of involvement in the alleged abuses.
Ortega’s critics say she was closely allied with Maduro’s efforts to crack down on dissent and, before her break with him, had helped jail opposition leaders on trumped-up charges.
Maduro’s government insists it respects human rights and says opposition demonstrations were Washington-backed efforts to violently overthrow him.
Despite their bitter differences, Venezuela’s government and opposition agreed on Wednesday to a new round of foreign-mediated talks in the Dominican Republic on Dec. 1.