Court officials in the Hague announced Thursday that they have opened an investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, alleging that his government has committed killings, torture and persecution against its own citizens as the country’s severe economic crisis has taken hold.
“Venezuela has become an unlawful military dictatorship that has violated its constitutional obligations and trampled upon the human rights of the Venezuelan people,” Richard Bennett, president of the International Criminal Court, said in a statement announcing the investigation. “The high level of violence used against the civilian population, as documented in various public statements and videos by different sources, amounts to crimes against humanity.”
Maduro’s chief accuser, a Washington state man named Julio Borges, said he plans to file a formal complaint with the ICC next week, the Washington Post reported.
“Nothing is more important than protecting human rights, whether that is against crimes against humanity or whether that’s against the government of a country,” Borges told the Post. “It’s been a real nightmare for my whole family and other Venezuelans, and what we’re seeing is really serious violations.”
Borges — who represents Venezuela at the Court — accused the president of violating the court’s original mandate to “apply and safeguard the rule of law and protect human rights” by issuing a decree that effectively rendered the chief prosecutor of the Court, Fatou Bensouda, politically independent and defying the constitutional order, according to the Post.
The American’s petition filed Thursday serves as the initial step toward lodging a formal complaint. If it is accepted by the Court, it would provide the body’s judges with enough evidence to launch an investigation and launch a proceeding to hear the case and potentially file a case.