The Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Jorge Arreaza, announced that the case presented by Venezuela before the International Criminal Court earlier this year, which concerned the imposition of unilateral US sanctions on his country, has been assigned to the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber III.
Mr Arreaza had come to The Hague last February 13th to present a formal request to the ICC’s Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, asking the Court to investigate US unilateral sanctions imposed on Venezuela as crimes against humanity.
The referral, consisting of a 60 pages long briefing, detailed the negative impact of the US sanctions on the Venezuelan economy – an impact that, according to the Venezuelan government, amounted to a violation of the human rights of the Venezuelan people, and specifically their right to health, food, and economic development.
“It is an economic war against the peoples who want to make their own decisions and who are willing to do anything to assert their sovereignty and self-determination. Sanctions are a means of achieving a change of government, with a terrible, devastating impact on the people of Venezuela. This is similar to the persecution of the Jewish people during the holocaust. ” he explained.
The Venezuelan Foreign Minister gave an example of private Venezuelan business people whose accounts in the US and Europe are closed without reason.He also mentioned unilateral coercive measures against VIASA, the national airline that has more than 2,000 workers.
“It’s persecution; it’s a modality that includes the use of force through the economy; it is a war through the economy, which generates death, destruction and disease in Venezuela. We came today to present our demand before the ICC; thus using international law we can all stop the barbarism that is causing the US Government. We ask the ICC to determine responsibilities and prosecute those responsible for the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”
The Foreign Minister explained that Venezuela, as a member of the ICC, could denounce the alleged crimes taking place on its territory, thus falling within the jurisdiction of the court – which was created to punish international atrocities such as war crimes and genocide.
During his short stay in The Hague, Mr Arreaza talked to the media after his visit at the ICC. In this context, he stressed that “the consequences of US coercive unilateral measures are crimes against humanity, a death sentence for tens of thousands of Venezuelans per year and violate both international laws and the United Nations Charter.”
To follow-up the referral by Venezuela, the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary investigation on February 19th, resulting in the current assignment of the case to Pre-Trial Chamber III.
Over time, the US has been imposing increasingly broader and tougher sanctions on Venezuela, targeting the government in Caracas and supporting instead the leader of the political opposition. The latest rounds of economic sanctions have been enacted through executive orders, in which the US has accused Venezuela of “human rights abuses and anti-democratic actions.”
The sanctions prohibit the Venezuelan government from accessing their accounts in the US and cut the ties between the US and the Venezuelan markets, including in the trade of oil and other goods.
While the current investigation focuses on crimes allegedly suffered by Venezuela, the ICC also has an already ongoing investigation into crimes allegedly committed by the Venezuelan government. The investigation – which has been assigned to the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the Court in September 2018 – came to birth after six American states (Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru) filed a request alleging crimes committed by the Venezuelan government in the context of the demonstrations and the political unrest takin place in the country, and especially the use of force against political opponents.
In line with these states’ claims, Human Rights Watch has also claimed that Venezuelan security forces have tortured and killed civilians, using excessive force against them.
In particular, it has been alleged that state security forces have frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations, and that they have arrested and detained thousands of members of the opposition – several of whom have been allegedly subjected to severe abuse and ill-treatment in detention. It has also been reported that some groups of protestors used violent methods, resulting in members of security forces being injured or killed.
On February 19th, the ICC decided to assign both requests, the first from the group of American Countries against Venezuela and the second from the government of Venezuela against the United States, to Pre-Trial Chamber III.
“Legal decision by the International Criminal Court assigning the complaint presented by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (referred by the Court’s Prosecution),” tweeted Minister Areaza.
In the picture Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Jorge Arreaza.