Last week, Colombian Senator Iván Duque delivered a document to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague accusing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of crimes against humanity. The document was signed by 76 Senators from Colombia and 70 from Chile. According to El Universal, the ICC acknowledged that it received the document from Senator Durque.
The ICC was created by the Rome Statute, which entered into force on July 1, 2002. The ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute persons, including heads of state, for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. However, the crimes must have occurred after the country ratified the Rome Statute. According to the ICC, Venezuela ratified the Rome Statute on June 7, 2000.
The document signed by the Senators from Colombia and Chile accuse President Maduro of committing crimes against humanity. According to a press release from Duque, the specific accusations include
the conduct of murder, deportation or forced removal, imprisonment and unjust deprivation of liberty, torture, persecution of a specific group or collectivity, and forced disappearance of persons. *
This is not the first time that the regime in Venezuela has been accused of crimes before the ICC. In 2015, the Attorney General of Colombia filed a report that accused President Nicolás Maduro of crimes against humanity related to the forced deportation of Colombians in Venezuela near the border.
During President Hugo Chavez’s tenure in office, the ICC received several reports relating to crimes committed by the Venezuelan government. According to a letter from the Office of the Prosecutor, an investigation was not opened for several reasons, including that
A considerable number of the allegations referred to incidents that are alleged to have taken place prior to 1 July 2002, in particular in connection with incidents occurring in the context of the shortlived coup in April 2002. These events occurred prior to the temporal jurisdiction of the Court and cannot be considered as the basis for any investigation under the Statute.
During the most recent wave of protests, the Maduro regime has unequivocally committed crimes which fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Deaths at the hands of government forces and pro-government colectivos and imprisonment of Maduro’s political opponents are routine. Furthermore, it is doubtful that these and other crimes do not have the approval of the President and senior officials.
While the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC may determine that her office does not have sufficient evidence to open an investigation, it is plain to all that President Maduro and his government are responsible for numerous crimes against humanity. Even more plain to advocates of the rule of law is that Nicolas Maduro must be held responsible for the crimes he and his government are committing.
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* Author’s translation