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Venezuela is committing crimes against humanity: experts’ report

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (Government of Venezuela/CC BY 3.0)

The Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro should be investigated for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to a panel of independent international experts appointed by the Organization of American States (OAS).

Former justice minister Irwin Cotler was one of the three experts on the panel, which released its 800-page report in Ottawa on May 30. Cotler said that the report contains enough documentary evidence to warrant the OAS referring it to the ICC prosecutor’s office.

The report cites seven specific crimes against humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute, which covers widespread and systematic attacks against a civilian population.

Irwin Cotler. RAOUL WALLENBERG CENTRE

Since 2014, Venezuela has been engaged in a brutal crackdown on the regime’s opponents and human rights advocates.

The alleged crimes include:

  • at least 6,385 murders or extrajudicial executions;
  • the imprisonment of at least 12,000 people;
  • torture or cruel treatment of at least 289 people;
  • rape and other sexual violence;
  • the persecution of identifiable groups on political grounds;
  • the enforced disappearance of those who’ve been arrested, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law; and
  • other inhumane acts that are intentionally causing great suffering to the population’s physical and mental health.
Largely empty shelves are seen at a Caracas supermarket in 2014. (Periergeia/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Cotler, who is the founder and chair of the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, said the evidence was collected from a wide range of sources, including governmental and nongovernmental organizations, judicial authorities and witness testimonies at public hearings.

He described what has been happening in Venezuela in recent years as “a state-sanctioned humanitarian crisis that has resulted in thousands” of deaths, as well as starvation and preventable illness.

The report speaks of a breakdown in the health system, resulting in a dramatic spike in infectious diseases and an increase in the child mortality rate of 30 per cent in one year alone. In addition, there is a food shortage that has been caused by the government’s economic policies.

This is a state-sanctioned humanitarian crisis that has resulted in thousands.
– Irwin Cotler

Cotler said Venezuela’s courts are unable to investigate these crimes because of the loss of “any semblance of an independent” justice system.

The panel of experts was set up by the OAS in September. It also included Manuel Ventura Robles, a former judge on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and Santiago Canton, the former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The OAS’s gathering of information was supervised by former ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.