The Venezuelan Supreme Court justices appointed by the opposition have filed a complaint, in exile, with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, accusing President Nicolás Maduro's government of crimes against humanity.
The complaint accuses Maduro and nearly 60 other officials of a systematic persecution of dissent that turns any citizen who disagrees with his chavista brand of politics into an enemy of the state.
It was initially filed by a former Maduro cabinet minister in charge of food supplies, Hebert Garcia Plaza, with the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ). The justices were appointed by the opposition-controlled legislature this year before the legislature was replaced by a Maduro-dominated constituent assembly.
As a result of the system of social controls and subjugation, the complaint argued, “people who are ideologically opposed to it are dominated, moved or destroyed, all with the goal of making it … irreversible.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Among those accused in the complaint are Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, former national guard chief Antonio Benavides Torres, Vice President Tareck El Aissami and former National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.
Also listed are national police chief Gen. Carlos Alfredo Pérez Ampueda; director of investigative police Douglas Rico; and the head of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, Gustavo Enrique González López.
The decision to file the complaint with the International Criminal Court was made by the Appeals Branch of the SCJ because Venezuelan laws do not allow the SCJ to consider complaints from individuals, Appeals Branch President José Troconis Da Silva told a news conference in Miami Monday.
“But after reviewing the text of the complaint submitted … we believe that as the maximum representatives of the judicial power in criminal matters, we are obligated to provide an answer to those who seek justice,” Troconis said.
He said the appeals branch “perceives a series of actions that could be considered crimes under Articles Five, Six and Seven of International Criminal Court's Rome statutes, such as the crimes of murder, imprisonment in violation of fundamental international laws and the persecution of a group because of political motives.”
The threat of violence — added to a political system where only those who swear loyalty to the revolution through the acquisition of the so-called “Homeland ID Card” can have access to medicines and food — has put Venezuelans in a difficult situation, the complaint argued.
“About 20 million Venezuelans [might be] forced to abandon their country or run the risk of dying because of bad nutrition or the lack of medicines, or of being jailed or assassinated by government forces,” it added.
Troconis, who was joined by SCJ President Miguel Angel Matin at the news conference, said documents attached to the complaint contain evidence that Venezuela's polarization is the direct result of government policies.
“We perceive … the design of a political ideology whose objective is a confrontation between two sides. One called friendly forces and the other called enemy forces,” he said.
The news conference was also joined by Justices Cruz Alejandro Graterol Roque and Alejandro Rebolledo. The opposition-appointed justices fled the country under threat of arrest and have been operating as a court in exile.
Their announcement of the complaint to The Hague came one week after former Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega, now also living in exile, asked the ICC to order the arrest of Maduro and other top government officials for crimes against humanity.
Ortega said she recorded 8,290 deaths from 2015 to 2017 at the hands of “military and police functionaries” following orders from higher ups. She said she sent more than 1,000 “pieces of evidence” to the ICC and submitted evidence of “repression” during anti-government protests earlier this year.
“Maduro and his government must pay for this,” she said.
Follow Antonio María Delgado on Twitter: @DelgadoAntonioM.