Venezuela: Crimes against Humanity

Luis Britto García

At the beginning of 2019, a group of us committed to the Network in Defense of Humanity met informally to study the legal defense against the multiform aggression against Venezuela. For years, I have compiled a summary of all kinds of imperial attacks against our country, but the complaint is not enough protection. The recourse is appealing to bodies to which the great powers do not submit but this is no protection either, though they turn it as weapons against those who seek to exercise their sovereignty.

One of these bodies is the International Criminal Court (ICC), which lacks any mechanism to implement its sentences. A sententious verdict from The Hague Tribunal, therefore, could not be imposed in the United States, a country that, on the other hand, has never signed any treaty that subjects itself or its authorities to a foreign court. But hegemonic powers seem to have no problem invoking the rulings of such Criminal Court to legitimate their attempts against progressive States or officials.

In 2011 the Criminal Court of The Hague issued an arrest warrant for the President of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, basing on alleged aggressions of this leader against opposition demonstrators. In vain, Russian satellite surveillance, Telesur reporters stationed at the site and even U.S. intelligence services denied the claim. The court order served as an excuse for the NATO bombings that demolished Libya, and for the lynching of the president by paramilitaries. Nine years later, the country that had reached Africa’s highest index of human development is in a confusing chaos where it has not been possible to constitute a stable government, to re-establish oil production or to protect against violence a population that is fleeing massively from death and misery. The International Criminal Court, on the other hand, has never ordered an arrest warrant against French President Emmanuel Macron, Colombia’s Ivan Duque, Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno or Chile’s Sebastian Piñera, presidents whose fierce and brutal retaliation against opposition demonstrations go on for months.

In my opinion, these were reasons enough to try a lawsuit in the Russell Tribunal, a neutral institution of great prestige due to rulings such as the one on war crimes in Vietnam. Their decision also lacks an apparatus for their enforcement and implementation but they carry enormous weight in the eyes of world opinion. But no governments or international bodies finance courts that condemn the great powers. The Russell Tribunal is suffering from prolonged periods of inactivity and its reactivation is beyond the reach of defenders of humanity with almost no individual recourses.

In any case, the intervention of the International Criminal Court in Venezuelan domestic affairs was started by our enemies. Since February 2018, EFE news agency reported that the ICC opened, on its own initiative, a preliminary examination of Venezuela as a step prior to the eventual opening of a formal investigation. The demand from several countries could precipitate the start of the process, among them Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Peru, which “are coordinating to deliver the complaint, which would be based on a report of the Organization of American States (OAS) compiling alleged episodes of repression against the Venezuelan opposition since Nicolas Maduro was elected President in 2013.” Given the recent electoral results, it is unlikely that Argentina continues on this initiative; neither Colombia, nor Chile nor Peru have the moral stature to denounce other countries for alleged repression, and a lot less the OAS, which has never condemned them for the slaughters against their civilian populations. Venezuela is fully aware of this and makes no appeal to the ICC. Its lawsuit instead is a counter-offensive, not against clowns but against the owner of the circus.

We have not located the full text of the Venezuelan lawsuit, which the government was supposed to disseminate exhaustively as a denunciation of the accumulation of aggressions inflicted on us. But Venezuela can easily prove that it is a victim of war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute.  Apparently, this norm refers to acts committed in war; but committing them without declaring war makes them even more abominable. And, in fact, our country is facing a fourth-generation warfare whose main target is the civilian population.

Article 1 of the Rome Statute defines crimes against humanity as ” Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health;” “, destroying or seizing the enemy’s property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war;” ” intentionally using the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions.” These rules cover the inhumane blockade aimed at intentionally starving the Venezuelan population and depriving them of the objects indispensable for their survival; deliberately causing them great suffering or seriously attempting against their physical integrity or health, and pillaging of our goods and deposits abroad.

Since we are litigating before international bodies, I would remind the authorities that, according to the U.N. Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property, such property cannot be seized because it is presumed to be intended for purposes of public interest. It would not be out of place to sue to recover the immense wealth that the Empire and its accomplices have stolen from us in order to destroy us through hunger and disease.

Resumen Latinoamericano
Translations by the North America Bureau