The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on Thursday the opening of preliminary examinations for “alleged” crimes in Venezuela, as a result of information about the use of “excessive force” by the security forces and the use of violence on the part of protesters.
After a careful, independent and impartial review of numerous communications and reports documenting alleged crimes (…) I have decided to open a preliminary examination on the situation in Venezuela,”
said in a statement the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, who also announced examinations in the Philippines.
This is the first time that the ICC has decided to open two simultaneous investigations of this type, due to complaints from the opposition.
In the case of Venezuela, since April 2017
it has been said that State security forces frequently used excessive force to disperse and suppress demonstrations and that they have arrested and imprisoned thousands of opposition members, real or apparent, some of which allegedly were subjected to serious abuse and mistreatment,”
It has also been reported that some groups of protesters have resorted to violent means, resulting in injuries or deaths of some members of the security forces,”
added the prosecutor in the statement.
In the midst of a serious political and socioeconomic crisis, more than 120 people died in Venezuela between April and July 2017 during demonstrations against the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
Former Venezuelan General Attorney, Luisa Ortega, had urged the ICC in November to investigate the abuses and torture committed by the Venezuelan government’s security forces.
Nicolás Maduro and his government must pay for this, for these crimes against humanity,”
said Ortega then, presenting a file with 1,000 pieces of evidence before the ICC headquarters in The Hague.
It is a clear sign that the ICC is establishing itself as a world court,”
explained Amal Nassar, permanent representative to the Court of the International Federation for Human Rights.
The announcement of the ICC comes on the same day that the European Parliament asked to extend the European sanctions to the Venezuelan president, vice president Tareck el Aissami and his relatives, and state oil company PDVSA, deeming them responsible for the aggravation of the crisis.
The European Parliament, which approved the resolution by 480 votes in favor, 51 against and 70 abstentions, had asked on Thursday the ICC prosecutor’s office to initiate investigations into the human rights violations perpetrated by the Venezuelan regime.
The European Union approved its first group of measures against Venezuela in November, with an arms embargo and material that could be used for “internal repression.” In January, they imposed a visa ban and asset freeze for seven high-ranking officials in the country.
After more than two months of failed negotiations between the government and the opposition in Santo Domingo, the National Electoral Council of Venezuela announced on Wednesday that the upcoming presidential elections, in which Maduro aspires to re-election, will be held on April 22nd.
This decision took the opposition by surprise, as it has not yet decided if it will go to the elections with a consensus candidate or several, or even if it will participate.
The ICC also announced on Thursday that it will examine the situation in the Philippines in the face of crimes allegedly committed in the framework of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign launched by the country’s government.
The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, was elected president in 2016 with the promise of eradicating drug trafficking. Since then, almost 4,000 suspected traffickers and drug users have been killed by police, and authorities are also investigating more than 2,000 “drug-related” killings by unknown people.