THE HAGUE – The Venezuela regime of Nicolas Maduro filed a request on Thursday with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, seeking an investigation of US sanctions against the Andean nation as “crimes against humanity.”
The sanctions constitute “a weapon of mass destruction” wielded against his country’s people, Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza said in The Hague.
The measures imposed by the United States with the aim of denying resources to Maduro’s leftist regime have caused death and hunger among the civilian population, the diplomat told a press conference after submitting the 60-page brief to Bensouda.
Besides statistical data on the impact of the sanctions, the document addresses “the illegality of the unilateral coercive measures” as well as Venezuela’s reasons for believing that the matter lies within the ICC’s jurisdiction, Arreaza said.
The ICC does not deal with disputes between governments, instead focusing on the actions of individuals.
Venezuela’s submission did not mention any specific officials by name because, according to Arreaza, it is the task of the prosecutor to identify the people responsible for criminal acts.
The foreign minister added, however, that the guilty parties were members of “the elite of the United States” and he took the opportunity to lament calls from Venezuelan opposition leaders for an intensification of the sanctions.
Arreaza said he hoped that action by the ICC in this case would “create a judicial precedent to stop the madness of the United States (against) all of the peoples who are subjects of unilateral coercive measures.”
Venezuela invoked Article 14 of the Rome Statute – the ICC’s founding document – in making the “referral” to the prosecutor, the same mechanism used in September 2018 by six countries to request an investigation against Maduro.
EFE asked Arreaza whether Venezuela plans to make additional referrals targeting those six countries: Canada, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Peru, who accuse Maduro of using the security forces to oppress and abuse opposition protesters.
The foreign minister said Caracas is not contemplating such a step.
“The most important thing is to go against the owner of the circus, against the one who told them to make these decisions. We don’t worry about the employees of the circus,” Arreaza said.
US sanctions against the Maduro regime began in 2015, but have grown in both extent and severity since Donald Trump took office in 2017.
Washington deems Maduro’s May 2018 re-election illegitimate and recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s acting president.
Guaido was the speaker of Venezuela’s congress when he swore in as provisional head of state in January 2019. The US rushed to recognize his claim and more than 50 other countries have followed suit.
Russia, China and India are among the group of nations that continue to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s president.