Extraordinary scenes in Geneva yesterday as Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, took to the UN Human Rights Council floor to try to convince the world that War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Venezuela Scrupulously Respects Human Rights.
Ortega was pressed on the treatment of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni – detained for releasing a political prisoner without the president’s permission – by the Tunisian representative Yadh Ben Achour, one of the Arab World’s most respected legal rights scholars. It seems Ortega blew a gasket, snapping, “so that the lawyer Yadh Ben Achour, representing Tunisia, may shut his mouth, it is not true that Judge Afiuni was raped. He is making things up.”
It’s bad enough that someone like Luisa Ortega would think to lecture someone like Ben Achour, who has a long history of opposing the Ben Ali dictatorship and led one of the top revolutionary bodies that managed the transition from dictatorship during the Tunisian Spring. Yadh Ben Achour is nowhere near the list of people a two-bit caribbean dictator’s apparatchik can bullshit, much less intimidate.
“This is too grave an accusation,” Ortega raged, “we are accused of infamy!”
But the worst, for Ortega, was yet to come. Hours after her outburst, Judge Afiuni turned up at her trial in Caracas – a trial that’s taking place now, five years and four months after the fact – and repeated that not only had she been raped in prison, but that both her vagina and anus had been seriously injured in the attack.
Judge Afiuni stands by her allegations that she – alone among inmates – had been left locked in her cell during a small fire at the prison. Her lawyer went on to state categorically the document Ortega brandished in Geneva claiming that Afiuni signed she had never been so victimized was an outright a forgery.
Ortega’s enormous blunder is telling. She just lied so blatantly, so demonstrably falsely, nobody even vaguely fair-minded could fail to see the type of person she is, or the type of power she represents. She claimed there was no physical evidence of any attack against Afiuni – a useless lie, the medical reports documenting Afiuni’s wounds are included in the dossier available to the UN-HRC committee in Geneva. Afiuni alleges she was forced to strip naked in front of 20 National Guardsmen while undergoing one of these medical exams.
Back in Caracas, the trial judge denied Afiuni’s request to be allowed to travel to Switzerland to respond to Ortega’s statement in person.