International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Could Venezuela Situation go to the ICC?


Over the last several days Venezuela has been thrown into chaos. Since the death of President Hugo Chavez last Spring, Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s close political ally, was sworn in as President of Venezuela.  Both Chavez and Maduro were/ are members of the National Socialist Party, and their leadership has been heavily criticized as being undemocratic and at times oppressive.  While Chavez ‘s name carried with it a sort of iconic appeal, Maduro’s rule has been decidedly shakier.  This sentiment came to a head with the recent outpouring of public protest against the Venezuelan government.

President Maduro has named the opposition– the protestors– as fascist rebels, while the protestors continue to demand lower inflation rates, increased availability of staple items, and increased security.  As many as fifty deaths have been reported, although this number is potentially skewed.  Reports indicate that the internet has been shut down in areas of high opposition concentration, and numerous incidents of police brutality have arisen.  There are mass shortages, especially in more rural areas, due to the devastating freeze the unrest has caused throughout the country.

Many potential solutions to the violence have been raised.  The UN has advocated no specific policy, but rather calls for the protection of human rights.  Pope Francis, himself Latin American, called for a more strategic approach, encouraging the two sides to end the violence and begin a process of reconciliation.  There has been little talk of the potential for this case to come to the International Criminal Court– this is for several reasons.  First, although Venezuela is party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, it is unlikely they would report their own situation, because of the two-sided nature of the violence.  Police forces have been far more brutal, but not all protests have been peaceful. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it is unclear whether the situation in Venezuela meets the gravity threshold set by the ICC’s mandate.  Indeed, tbe ICC is meant to prosecute only the most serious atrocity crimes, and although Venezuela suffers, prosecution at an international level may not be a viable solution.  Perhaps Venezuelans will end up heeding the Pope’s words, and focusing on reconciliation quite soon.


2 responses to “Could Venezuela Situation go to the ICC?

  1. jhgmitch February 27, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Exactly, it’s unlikely because of the gravity/scope concern.

  2. gracen0te5 March 14, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    I agree that prosecution at an international level may not be a viable solution. It’s unlikely that this situation will go to the ICC.

    What’s happening in Venezuela reminds me of the events of April 11-14, 2002, in which perhaps thirty or more Venezuelans died. Seventeen people were killed on April 11 as a huge demonstration against then President Hugo Chavez was attacked with gunfire. Like the Venezuela case in 2002, it is unlikely that the Venezuela situation would go to the ICC or that a truth commission of some sort would be created due to limited mandate for episodes that last for a few days.

    If the ICC were called into the situation, it would be for accountability more than anything else. It’s been a month since the violent clashes between opposition demonstrators and government forces, with at least 23 people killed and more than 200 injured. A former International Bar Association President, Fernando Peláez-Pier states that in Venezuela, “there is no such thing as rule of law and in turn there is no separation of powers, nor independence of the judiciary.”
    Therefore, dialogue seems to be the only way of resolving the crisis in Venezuela.

    For now, like what had happened in the court, there is probably no evidence of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population, and hence the court will not be able to continue the investigation.
    Besides the Hague, the ICC is the top permanent international judiciary entity tasked with pursuing and punishing the most serious crimes against international law. Since there is not enough evidence of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population, ICC, even if complaints and concerns are brought to them, would most likely not be able to continue the investigation.

    Hermán Escarrá, a representative of prisoners, charged that “in Venezuela there is a dictatorship disguise. This reminds me a bit of the Gacaca Courts, in that it has been accused of being “traditional disguise” to exercise state authority.

    Latin America’s post-conflict societies include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay in addition to Venezuela. International arbitration to countries in Latin America often falls short of making its way to “ICC level.” Although Latin America has experienced torture, forced disappearances, extra-judicial executions, and moral/legal voids, the ICC seems to have been pursuing Africa in its own self-interested goal of enhancing the Courts international legitimacy through extension of jurisdiction and influence over Latin America. How severe would the Venezuela cases have to be to get ICC intervention?

    Is there a necessity to fix legal deficiencies within Venezuela to adopt more cooperative mechanisms between leaders and the people?

    Iliff, Andrew R. “Root and Branch: Discourse of ‘Tradition’ in Grassroots Traditional Justice” in The International Journal of Transitional Justice 6(2) (2012): 253-273.

    Mendez, Juan E. “The Human Right to Truth: Lessons Learned from Latin American Experiences with Truth-Telling” in Telling the Truths: Truth-Telling and Peace Building in Post-Conflict Societies. Tristan Anne Borer (ed). Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006: 115-144.

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