Ana Cristina Bracho
Thinking about war and law can lead us into certain traps. For example, we believe that war is forbidden and that all ways to do harm or reasons to hurt or kill are also forbidden. The reality is very different, especially when we move from the principal declarations and arrive at agreements, resolutions or specific historical examples where we find that there are legal wars and that sometimes, the whole structure for peace is revealed simply as a device to maintain a system of unipolar world domination in accordance with the interests of a handful of individuals.
What is happening in Venezuela is similar to other interventionist ventures of the United States today. It is obligatory to mention the case of Libya, where a massive media campaign portrayed a great ogre whose assassination ultimately was not only the death of a man but the ruin of an entire nation.
However, what happened legally? How are these wars justified? What strategies are used?
Before answering, let us bear in mind that the international forum is not a neutral structure that works for the good of humanity. On the contrary, it is a place where national politicians and personalities from the most influential and contemporary industries gather and determine which side they support. Oscillating between antagonistic positions, such as those that determine the need to apply the “responsibility to protect” to invade before a country attacks them or even violates national or international law, and complete indifference, as in the case of Palestine or the genocide in Yemen.
In order to legally destroy a country, within the current framework of law, the first step is to convince international public opinion that the people have a government that has committed an atrocious crime or a series of atrocious crimes. The second is to generate evidence presuming that those responsible are people who are part of the government; and the third is to work deeply on people’s perceptions so that they are convinced that some are causing them great harm or want to harm them.
This is what Thierry Meyssan pointed out to the Russian television network RT, describing the United States’ strategy in Venezuela was to empower the opposition until they were in a position to incite civil war while at the same time shifting responsibility for the situation, making people feel like they are in a “dogfight”.
This is complemented by developments abroad. What Serge Halimi explained in the case of the Kosovo war pointing out that before the invasion, the media in Europe had created a saturation on the topic and a rhetoric where attempting to question the narrative was punished because the broadcast version of what was happening was so atrocious that war appeared to be a lesser evil.
Blackout Case in Venezuela
The blackout that occurred in Venezuela on March 7, 2019 was the interruption of a public service that impacted the majority of the population, over a larger radius for the longest time since the Revolution.
A description of the event, allegedly neutral, may serve to define the character of the action. Thus, in Venezuela there has been an interruption of electrical service which is an essential element for life, health and enjoyment of the economic, social and cultural rights of the population.
An event that can easily be included in one of the suppositions contained in the Rome Statute as a crime against humanity. For this is the name that must be given to “other inhuman acts…which intentionally cause great suffering or threaten physical integrity or mental or physical health”.**
Who committed the crime?
The word crime is used to distinguish between all the offenses, those that are considered to be the most grave and the most reprehensible actions, although legally we cannot distinguish this from other concepts of crime. So these are acts that can be actions or omissions, defined by law, illegal and punishable.
Are these acts committed on purpose by anti-Venezuelan agents? Are they the consequences of government oversight? Here begins the process described by Thierry Meyssan.
The opposition has been pointing out over the years that it is the government’s fault for what they call the precarious maintenance of the system. Conversely, government spokespersons have argued that this is an aggression perpetrated by a combination of remote electromagnetic attack and internal sabotage.
Juridically, this has different consequences because, in line with what the Venezuelan government has said, we shall note certain elements: first, events like these occurred in the past in Iran, Chile, Ukraine, and Nicaragua; second, they are consistent with statements made by U.S. spokespersons indicating that suffering must increase until the people surrender; third, an escalation in self-fulfilling prophecies of the opposition; finally, investigators such as Vladimir Adrianza deny that lack of maintenance could be the cause of a strike like of this kind.
As for the opposition, that would be an act of gross negligence that would not clearly involve an immediate and individual legal responsibility of the representatives of the government unless they could prove that it was done professionally to “self-sabotage”, which sounds implausible.
However, the media quickly produced propaganda campaigns that attributed all the victims, direct and indirect, certain or not, that would potentially occur as the responsibility of the government. Aristóbulo Isturiz denounced on March 9, 2019, from Plaza Bolívar, an unprecedented media deployment in hospitals, especially children’s hospitals, to report deaths of children due to incidents and inadequacies related to the absence of electricity.
On the same date, the opposition deputy, Edgar Zambrano, to defend himself from controversy he had in his camp for having been found dining in a restaurant said ” just yesterday, deputies, went around hospitals collecting data, fatalities of the electrical crisis, in order to obtain statistics requested from international organizations, to the Internal Policy Commission.
With which, it is evident to infer that the consequences of the blackout are being compiled to form part of a case investigation for crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Venezuelan authorities, who are inefficient in providing services and negligent in the face of the consequences of these acts.
In this analysis, even the time chosen to carry out the operation makes sense because it occurs just before the visit to the country of Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights and immediately after she declared that the sanctions on Venezuela torpedoed the guarantees of human rights in the country.
The legal framework for military intervention
Just as today’s social networks have been filled with comments that recall that power outages occurred at other times in history when the United States set out to promote “regime change”. Pressure and legal blackmail of counter-hegemonic leaders is also characteristic.
At present we have to consider some issues: the existence of a preliminary investigation against Venezuela before the International Criminal Court; in September 2018 and February 2019, the proceedings against Nicolás Maduro before this court have been demanded by the Lima Group; that political pressure on the ICC has made headlines after Christoph Flugge, one of its members, resigned after the US threatened the judges.
In the past, we can observe that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2011 issued an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity against Colonel Muammar al Gaddafi for alleged war crimes in the repression of revolts and that this was the second time that this body directed a mandate of this kind against a president. The first occasion was when it did so against the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir. What happened later in those countries is the subject of many other articles and therefore this is a matter which cannot be dropped.
Translation by Internationalist 360°
*Internationalist 360° Editor’s Note:
II. JURISDICTION AND GENERAL PRINCIPLES
(c)CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated. Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.
For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:
(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
(i) Enforced disappearance of persons;
(j) The crime of apartheid;
(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health