Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court probes human rights violations in Venezuela

FILE – In this Jan. 5, 2017 file photo, opposition supporters clash with riot security forces during a rally to mark the first anniversary of the government-sponsored violence during a protest rally in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File)

The International Criminal Court said on Monday that it is investigating claims of crimes against humanity in Venezuela. The office of the prosecutor of the Hague-based court said it would closely examine accusations against individuals responsible for repression during the uprising of security forces against the anti-government protests in the South American country earlier this year. The embattled Maduro regime, which has also been criticized for restricting freedom of the press, “should end the use of state security forces to suppress peaceful demonstrations,” said prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. “I have today opened the door to the judicial investigation, which will examine whether serious crimes may have been committed.”

The office said it had the “necessary means” to conduct the probe and urged Venezuela to cooperate, but it did not specify what could be seen as the minimum standards of the court to reach the same conclusion. Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry called the decision “unjustified” and rejected the idea that crimes against humanity were being committed in the country.

“It was a decision with a Latin American flavor … [because] it was coming from the Netherlands, which has justice complexities,” José Miguel Vivanco, the executive director of the New York-based Americas division of Human Rights Watch, told reporters in Geneva.

But Caracas’ main ally, Russia, saw the decision as part of a drive by the prosecutor of the ICC to delegitimize Maduro’s government. The Kremlin said in a statement that Venezuela was backing up “despotic populism” by attempting to use “legal barriers.”

“These attempts by the Colombian, French and American legal advisers are part of an inevitable new phase in the struggle against the ruling socialists of Venezuela, whose criminal rule is rooted in a policy of gross human rights violations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

[email protected]_d_d: CA1 has decided to open a probe of possible crime of crimes against humanity in #[email protected]: A sign of bad intentions? — KSA Newskombine (@OfficialKSA) June 19, 2017

Previously, the Human Rights Watch reported accused Venezuela of starving tens of thousands of its citizens in an effort to silence dissent. Unrest across the country has claimed more than 120 lives, with supporters and opponents of the Maduro government locked in a violent conflict that has grown largely out of control.

Read the full story at The Independent.

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