The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has appointed a special investigator to determine whether the Venezuelan government has committed crimes against humanity.
“The escalation of human rights violations in Venezuela and the systematic attacks against the population, which include murders, imprisonment, and torture, make it evidence in the eyes of the international community that we are looking at crimes against humanity,” Almagro announced on Tuesday.
“Venezuela ratified the Treaty of Rome in 2000, and therefore the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction over crimes that occur there. It is our obligation to explore the possibility that those guilty of these atrocities are tried by the ICC,” he continued.
Almagro has appointed Luis Moreno Campo, a former prosecutor for ICC to analyze the crimes committed by the Venezuelan government. Ocampo claimed that the OAS must unify in finding out exactly what crimes have taken place, and therefore punishing Venezuela appropriately.
— Luis Almagro (@Almagro_OEA2015) July 25, 2017
“We have to identify who is most responsible for the crimes,” he said:
Venezuela has the priority to investigate these crimes and it is vital to consult their authorities about the steps taken to achieve justice. If they confirm the crimes and there are no genuine attempts to investigate them, the OAS can send this information to the prosecutor of the ICC. Just one of the 28 states that are members of the OAS and the Court can refer to the situation of Venezuela to facilitate the opening of an investigation.
However, the Venezuelan government has disputed the legitimacy of the OAS after the country’s foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez stormed out of a summit in June discussing possible sanctions on Venezuela. “Not only do we not recognize this meeting, we do not recognize any resolution coming out of it,” she said at the time.
Over recent years, Venezuela has been accused of multiple human rights violations including police and military personnel using excessive force against protesters, unwarranted property raids, illegal incarcerations and the torturing of suspects.
Last month, Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, a former loyalist to the late dictator Hugo Chávez and Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), charged the former head of the country’s national guard, Antonio Benavides with “serious and systematic” human rights violations,
In 2015, the Obama administration sanctioned Benavides and a number of other senior military officers following a series of violent clashes between his forces and civilians, which killed over 40 people. The sanctions included the freezing of assets and indefinite visa restrictions.
“In various cities in Venezuela, members of the GNB used force against peaceful protestors and journalists, including severe physical violence, sexual assault, and firearms,” the White House said at the time.
In May, eight Latin American countries also signed a letter condemning “excessive use of force by Venezuelan authorities against civilians who are protesting government measures that affect democratic stability and cause the loss of human life.” According to an analysisby Venezuelan outlet RunRunes, 116 people have been killed in daily anti-government since March.