Venezuela seeks ICC probe of US sanctions

The Hague: Venezuela has filed a request here with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking an investigation of US sanctions against the South American nation as “crimes against humanity”.

The sanctions constitute “a weapon of mass destruction” wielded against the country’s people, Efe news quoted Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as saying in The Hague on Thursday.

The measures imposed by the US with the aim of denying resources to President Nicolas Maduro’s leftist government have caused death and hunger among the civilian population, Arreaza told a press conference after submitting the 60-page brief to chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

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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, but instead focuses 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 however, added that the guilty parties were members of “the elite of the US”.

Arreaza said he hoped that action by the ICC in this case would “create a judicial precedent to stop the madness of the US (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.

US sanctions against the Maduro government 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 proclaimed himself 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 130 nations that continue to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s President.

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