[Leer en español]
It took the International Criminal Court (ICC) more than two years to announce that in Venezuela Nicolás Maduro committed crimes against humanity. This gave rise to serious investigations whose development depends exclusively on the will of the authorities of the international organization.
This is an indefinite process that could last for decades. The prosecution began its preliminary examination in February 2018, after a group of States Parties to the Rome Statute -Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru- referred the situation. This means that Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda took 1,030 days to announce what the world already knew: there are indications of crimes against humanity in Venezuela.
Bensouda said this Monday, December 14th, that after conducting a preliminary examination, she found grounds to believe that “at least since April 2017, civilian authorities, members of the armed forces and individuals in favor of the government, committed crimes against humanity such as imprisonment, torture, rape and/or other forms of sexual violence and politically motivated persecution of a group or collectivity”.
“The Prosecutor’s Office anticipates concluding the preliminary examination in order to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation during the first part of 2021,” he explains.
“It is very difficult for Maduro to end up behind the bars at The Hague”
Venezuelan lawyer Carlos Ramírez López, who has studied international criminal litigation, said in an interview for El American that it is very difficult for Maduro to end up under the orders of Justice, especially because of actions of dubious credibility on the part of ICC officials.
For the attorney, Bensouda’s pronouncement is only because of the pressure he received from international organizations that took less time to establish what Maduro’s regime had done on Venezuela.
“The September UN report detailed crimes against humanity and did so in a much shorter time than Bensouda took (…) On December 2nd the OAS also published a comprehensive report. This means that the pressure is working; if this pressure had not existed this would not be happening,” the specialist said.
Ramírez López reported that the next step by the ICC is to determine if there is impartial and independent justice in Venezuela to prosecute the facts.
“With this announcement, Bensouda would be completing phase 2 of its preliminary examination, which began on February 2, 2018. She has taken two years and 10 months to do so, now she would have to start phase 3, which consists of determining if there is an impartial and independent justice in Venezuela,” he explained.
“She has reported that self-appointed Attorney General Tareck William Saab brought her 4 thick volumes reporting on judicial proceedings on some cases. If Bensouda completes phase 3 she would have to move on to the final phase which is to ask the Preliminary Investigation Chamber to authorize an investigation,” he said.
The trial lawyer explained that what has happened so far is not an examination or an investigation, but a determination of “whether the allegations are reliable, robust, serious and credible.”
In relation to the time that the investigation against the Maduro regime could be completed, Ramírez López pointed out that the Rome Statute does not establish time limits for such proceedings, so “the time period is incalculable”.
“It is very difficult for Maduro to end up under the orders of justice. After Bensouda has maintained close relations with people of the Venezuelan tyranny such as Tareck William Saab or Tareck El Aissami’s sister, he indicates that she has relations and links with the tyranny that will not allow her to act in freedom,” he denounced.
The same CPI has allowed the presence of Haifa El Aissami, sister of the Chavista oil minister Tareck El Aissami, who in turn is accused of drug trafficking by the United States.
According to Ramírez López, Haifa El Aissami is Maduro’s ambassador to the ICC and who makes “special contributions” to the budget of the international organization and remains there to exert pressure to stop investigations against the Venezuelan regime from moving forward.
Since the ICC began its operations in 2002, it has generated expenses of over one and a half billion dollars. During this period it has only prosecuted four African criminals and none in Latin America.
For a case to be investigated and prosecuted it has to pass through the approval of the Court’s prosecutor and then through a Preliminary Affairs Chamber; a whole bureaucratic process that can last for years.
Fatou Bensouda, the US Attorney General of The Hague
Last September, the US government announced sanctions against prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for initiating the investigation of US soldiers for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.
The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, pointed out that any person or entity that collaborates with the official investigating possible war crimes in Afghanistan will also be subject to the measures of the US government. The sanction includes visa restrictions and freezing of their assets in American territory.
In June, President Donald Trump had given the green light to measures against members of the tribunal. In an executive order, the president warned that he would block the property and assets under American jurisdiction of any member of the court based in The Hague involved in the investigation or prosecution of US troops.