Could Venezuela Situation go to the ICC?
February 27, 2014
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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.