WASHINGTON, United States, Wednesday May 30, 2018 – A panel of independent international experts have accused the Venezuela government of crimes against humanity.
And a recommendation that their findings be forwarded to the International Crime Court (ICC) for investigation and possible prosecution has been accepted by the Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro.
In a report submitted yesterday, the OAS-designated panel – comprised of Santiago Canton, Secretary of Human Rights of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina; Irwin Cotler, a former Minister of Justice in Canada and President of the Centre for Human Rights Raul Wallenberg; and former judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Manuel Ventura Robles of Costa Rica – found that reasonable grounds exist to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela dating back to at least February 12, 2014.
These included multiple murders, imprisonment and arbitrary detention, torture, rape, political persecution and enforced disappearances.
“Frankly, I’ve never been as morally affected as I have by the cases of torture we have found,” said panelist Ventura Robles. “Cases of torture against women, men – it’s all incomprehensible that this continues to occur in our continent.”
Crimes against humanity are defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute as “specific crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack”. Venezuela is a State Party to the Rome Statute, and the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over any crimes committed in the territory of Venezuela or by Venezuelan nationals since July 1, 2002.
“The widespread and systematic targeting of opponents of the regime or suspected ‘enemies of the state’, constitute the crime against humanity,” the report stated. “These acts, for which there is no legal basis, did not take place spontaneously or in isolation, but instead reflect a policy put in place by the Government of Venezuela through acts directed by the highest State authorities.”
The experts’ 400-page document, supported by 400 pages of Annexes, identified: 131 murder victims of protests in 2014 and 2017; 8,292 extrajudicial executions recorded since 2015; more than 12,000 Venezuelans arbitrarily detained, imprisoned or subject to other severe deprivation of physical liberty since the 2013 presidential elections; more than 1,300 political prisoners: people that have been or still are detained because of their opposition to the Government; a widespread and systematic pattern of abuse targeting an identified segment of the civilian population in Venezuela.
The panel recommended that Almagro should submit the report and the evidence collected by the General Secretariat of the OAS to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC.
In a statement issued yesterday after the report was presented, the OAS Secretary General said the report would be sent to the ICC “to reinforce the probative evidence of the complaints already submitted….At the same time, this document will be the basis for the efforts will make with OAS member countries and observers, so they can represent the complaints formulated before the International Criminal Court.”
The information contained in the report was gathered from 26 testimonies from witnesses that testified during five public hearings organized by the OAS General Secretariat, as well as dozens of testimonies from victims, victims’ families, and other interested parties submitted to the OAS General Secretariat, and written submissions provided by more than 40 Venezuelan and international non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations.
The report is divided into two parts: one written by the OAS General Secretariat, which includes material provided by witnesses who testified during the public hearings conducted in September, October, and November 2017, and material collected from interested parties, Venezuelan civil society and intergovernmental organizations; and part two authored by the experts, which provides a legal assessment of the information gathered, an examination of relevant international jurisprudence and precedent, as well as their conclusions and recommendations.