Supreme Court justices accuse Venezuelan officials of crimes against humanity

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – The Venezuelan Supreme Court justices have accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government officials of committing crimes against humanity. They filed the complaint with the International Criminal Court while exiled from the country.

Magistrate of the Supreme Court Pedro Troconis gives news conference regarding crimes against humanity. Image Courtesy of Carl Juste.

The complaint was sent to The Hague by Supreme Court justices who were appointed by the opposition. It accuses Maduro and nearly 60 other officials of a systematic persecution of dissent. Any citizen who speaks out against the regime is immediately labeled an enemy of the state. This strict system of social controls and subjugation, the complaint argues, creates a society where “people who are ideologically opposed to it are dominated, moved or destroyed, all with the goal of making it … irreversible.”

The complaint was initially filed by Hebert Garcia Plaza, the former Maduro cabinet minister in charge of food supplies, along with the Supreme Court of Justice. The justices were appointed by the opposition-controlled legislature earlier this year. Now that the National Assembly has been pushed out and replaced with the pro-government constituent assembly, the justices have been exiled under threat of arrest.

The Appeals Branch of the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice made the decision to file the complaint. A representative referenced crime involving murder, imprisonment in violation of fundamental international laws, and the persecution of a group because of political motives. Only those who were loyal to the government had access to food and medicines,  so citizens were put in difficult situations. The court added that around 20 million citizens might have to abandon their country because of threats to their health. The risk of dying is high due to poor nutrition, a lack of medicine, and government forces’ deadly actions toward dissidents. They included evidence that Venezuela’s suffering is a direct result of government policies.

This announcement comes just one week after former Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega, also in exile, asked the International Criminal Court to capture and bring President Maduro to trial. Ortega claims that government officials are responsible for 8,290 deaths carried out by security forces from 2015 to 2017. She sent more than 1,000 pieces of “evidence” to the ICC and proof of repression during anti-government protests. She explained that the killings occurred “under the orders of the executive branch, as part of a social cleansing plan carried out by the government.”

The ICC has authority to investigate and try individuals accused of crimes against humanity when a nation state is deemed unable to carry out the process itself, but the ICC has yet to officially respond to Ortega’s accusations.

The complaint accuses prominent officials such as Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, former national guard chief Antonio Benavides Torres, Vice President Tareck El Aissami and former National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

For more information, please see:

Miami Herald – Venezuelan officials accused of crimes against humanity in The Hague – 21 November 2017

PanAm Post – Venezuela’s Legitimate Supreme Court to Denounce Maduro Regime before International Criminal Court – 21 November 2017

Venezuela Analysis – Venezuela’s Fugitive Ex-Attorney General Accuses President Maduro of Crimes Against Humanity – 17 November 2017

Reuters – Venezuela’s ex-prosecutor wants Maduro tried at The Hague – 16 November 2017

Independent – Venezuela’s president accused of crimes against humanity – 16 November 2017

Maduro’s shocking victory in Venezuela’s latest election

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela’s opposition leaders suffered a devastating loss on Sunday, October 15. With reluctant participation by the opposing party, socialist leader Nicolas Maduro staged this election and won by a 17-point margin.

President Maduro. Image Courtesy of Ariana Cubillos.

Several national and global actors have denounced the election as fraudulent because it is unbelievable that Venezuelans would legitimately elect this party. The polls showed Maduro ahead by nine points while the official count reported him losing by six. Additionally, reports show only about a fifth of Venezuelans claim to support his government. He is known for abolishing Venezuela’s National Assembly, violently putting down protests, illegally jailing nearly 500 opposition activists, and wiping out any remnants of independent media. Somehow, he still ended up winning two-thirds of the races with 17 of 23 governorships.

A political risk research and consulting firm, Eurasia Group, reported “if the vote were to be completely free and fair, the (opposition) would likely win between 18 and 21 states.”

Venezuela is shocked by these results but does not have any evidence of a sham election. In the past, Maduro’s party was accused of manipulating the election that put him in power. These allegations involved the software company that set up the voting system and found that it miscalculated by one million votes.

In this case, the pre-rigging of the election was not hidden. Authorities under Maduro abruptly moved polling places of more than a half a million voters from anti-government neighborhoods to regime-friendly areas. They also printed ballots with names of opposition candidates who had been defeated in primary voting.

While some opposition leaders denounce this election and demand an independent audit, others have accepted defeat. Many assume that their supporters had fled as refugees or were too disappointed in the government to participate in the election. Because of Maduro’s tainted history, some opposition candidates say they never truly expected to win in a fair election, they just hoped they would gain more power.

This vote allows Maduro to establish the Constituent Assembly, a new institution that is stacked with his supporters and will replace the National Assembly, which was previously filled with his opposition. From this new institution, Maduro has the power to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution.

This election comes less than three months after the last major vote which ended violently. Protestors clashed with police resulting in the death of six people. Since then, more than 120 people have been killed in protest of their socialist government. Thousands of others have fled the country because of food scarcity, rampant violence, and high inflation.

Since Maduro’s government came into power in July, Venezuela’s democratic credentials have been under scrutiny. Many see this election as a way to affirm Maduro’s power and appear democratic. However, the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, says “you can’t recognize elections in a country where there’s no guarantee for the efficient exercise of democracy.”

For more information, please see:

Pittsburgh Post – Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro defends election results, claims American opposition is aiding him – 17 October 2017

Washington Post – the hope for change in Venezuela suffers a crushing blow – 17 October 2017

Fox News – Venezuela’s democracy is dead – 16 October 2017

CNN – Venezuelan opposition denounces results of first major vote since violent election – 16 October 2017

NY Times – Venezuelan Opposition Denounces Latest Vote as Ruling Party Makes Gains – 16 October 2017

Venezuelan President will not address UN after shocking human rights report

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS,Venezuela – After a scathing human rights report by the UN, Venezuelan President Maduro cancels plans to address the UN Human Rights Council on September 11, 2017. Maduro will send newly-appointed foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, in his place to address the Council on its opening day.

Venezuelan President Maduro. Image Courtesy of Venezuelan Analysis.

Many see Maduro’s decision not to speak as a response to the U.N.’s human rights report and increased activism against his policies. The report calls for further investigation and accountability by the Venezuelan government. It also asks the UN Human Rights Council itself to take measures to prevent these human rights violations.

On August 30th, The UN reported extensive human rights violations and abuses in Venezuela. These come in the wake of anti-Government protests as tensions between the Government and the opposition increase. The report indicates a repressive policy with the use of excessive force and arbitrary detention against protesters. The government’s actions toward protesters, led by Maduro, point to “the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instill fear in the population to curb demonstrations.”

The President, as one of the 47 current member states, planned to speak at this three-week UN Human Rights Council session. He last addressed this audience in November 2015. The Council does not invite dignitaries to participate in meetings, but it is protocol to honor member states’ requests to speak.

Although he was granted speaking time, a Council spokesman released a statement that Maduro would not address the council without giving a specific explanation.

The U.N. report paints a disturbing picture of the country. Reliable sources estimate the number of people detained since the beginning of April to be 5,000, including 410 children. Many detained victims have described it as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Other detainees, both men and women, also reported threats of sexual violence and death perpetrated by the guards. Conditions in detention centers are alarming with accounts of over-crowded cells, rat and insect infestations, and lack of drinking water and bathroom facilities. The U.N. found these victims’ accounts to be consistent and corroborated by medical records.

President Maduro does not allow the U.N. investigation to enter the country, so this report is based on phone interviews with victims, families, NGOs, journalists, lawyers, first-responders and doctors. There are reported attacks to journalists and media workers to stop them from covering the demonstrations. These demonstrators and journalists have been designated “terrorists” and “enemies” by authorities.

Maduro’s spot at the podium was already being criticized. Critics were outraged and did not want to see the UN stage used by a dictator. Days earlier, 12 human rights activists called for an urgent Council meeting to discuss Venezuela’s membership and protest Maduro’s appearance.

For further information, please see:

CNS News – Maduro Cancels Plans to Address UN Human Rights Council; Activists Want Venezuela Expelled – 6 September 2017

Reuters – Venezuelan President Maduro will not go to U.N. rights forum – 5 September 2017

Fox News – UN rips Venezuelan human rights abuses, as government orders opposition leader’s wife to court – 2 September 2017

UN News Centre – Human rights violations indicate repressive policy of Venezuelan authorities – 30 August 2017