Venezuela corruption probe: ICC being asked to investigate Maduro violence

The world’s leading human rights body is investigating reports of atrocities in Venezuela as opposition to President Nicolas Maduro faces new momentum. The country has been in violent upheaval since January in a crisis…

Venezuela corruption probe: ICC being asked to investigate Maduro violence

The world’s leading human rights body is investigating reports of atrocities in Venezuela as opposition to President Nicolas Maduro faces new momentum.

The country has been in violent upheaval since January in a crisis sparked by a protest over economic and social conditions that has so far claimed some 125 lives, according to local rights groups.

Since mid-2018, widespread food shortages, long queues and chronic economic hardship have contributed to growing numbers of demonstrations calling for President Maduro to step down.

As arrests and shootings have taken place, Maduro’s forces have responded with overwhelming force — including the torching of demonstrators’ homes and houses of anti-government activists.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has confirmed it is investigating reports of “serious and widespread” crimes committed by the Venezuelan security forces, but has declined to provide details.

“We’re looking into reports,” spokesperson Fadi El Abdallah told CNN. “We have received an advance copy of a document dated December, 2018, that was sent to the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate the serious human rights violations that have been reported in Venezuela.”

Last month, a group of international rights advocates urged the ICC to investigate the Maduro regime’s “systematic and widespread attacks on citizens”. The specialists had spent a month in the country gathering evidence of abuses, the report concluded.

Maduro, who has been in power since 2014, has called the unrest “terrorism” and a “coup attempt”. He has also claimed that his socialist government faces US attempts to topple him, and he regularly quotes Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

His government is also accused of murdering prominent political opponents and some journalists have been killed while reporting on the crisis.

In response to the ICC’s investigation, the pro-Maduro government-run news outlet Habana Libre said such charges were “disproportionate and unfair”. It said: “Venezuela has been an important member of the United Nations since 1999, when the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution creating it as a country of special concern because of the serious human rights situation it was experiencing at the time.”

The United States on Monday recognized three opposition mayors in Caracas as mayors of “legitimate municipalities,” a move that diplomats say showed a growing support for Maduro’s opponents. In a clear show of displeasure, Venezuela expelled the U.S. ambassador on Friday.

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