THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Venezuela’s ousted chief prosecutor on Thursday asked the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into President Nicolas Maduro and four other senior officials for alleged crimes against humanity.
Luisa Ortega visited the Hague-based court accompanied by aides carrying large files of papers. She said she turned over to the court more than 1,000 pieces of evidence including forensic reports, witness interviews and expert testimony linking security forces to more than 8,000 murders since 2015.
“Nicolas Maduro and his government should pay for these crimes against humanity just as they must also pay for the hunger, misery and hardship they’ve inflicted on the Venezuelan people,” she told reporters outside the court.
Ortega said she was taking her complaint to the international tribunal because “it’s not possible to punish these people” in Venezuela, where she said the judiciary has been taken over by the ruling socialist party.
Venezuela is one of more than 120 nations that have ratified the treaty creating the International Criminal Court. However, it is not certain the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, will take up Ortega’s request. Bensouda’s office receives hundreds of such filings every year.
In the past, the prosecution office received other communications alleging crimes by Venezuelan authorities against political opponents since 2002. In 2006, prosecutors declined to open an investigation, but added that the decision “can be reconsidered in the light of new facts or evidence.”
More than 120 people were killed and hundreds more jailed and injured during months of anti-government unrest that rocked Venezuela earlier this year. Several foreign governments and the United Nations have criticized security forces’ crackdown on the protesters, alleging excessive force.
Ortega has been leading a campaign from exile to discredit Maduro’s socialist government for human rights abuses and corruption by senior officials.
Ortega fled Venezuela in August after being removed from office by a new, all-powerful constituent assembly loyal to Maduro. By law only the national assembly, one of the few institutions in the hands of the opposition, can remove the nation’s top law enforcement official and many foreign governments, including the U.S., have refused to recognize her replacement.