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Venezuela asks ICC to probe US sanctions

Published on February 13, 2020

Venezuela said Thursday it had asked the International Criminal Court to investigate US sanctions against Nicolas Maduro’s government as possible crimes against humanity.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said that in a “historic event” he had formally referred the issue to the prosecutor of the Hague-based tribunal as being a form of “economic warfare”.

“We believe the unilateral coercive measures are crimes against humanity against the civilian population of Venezuela,” Arreaza told reporters after meeting ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

He said he hoped it could be a test case for other US sanctions, for example by Caracas’s allies Iran and Cuba.

“We have made this claim from our hearts and we hope it will be dealt with rapidly because it may even turn out to be case law to stop the craziness of the United States,” he said.

There was no immediate reaction from the ICC, which was set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The US has not signed up to the court but the ICC can claim jurisdiction over issues that affect people in member states such as Venezuela.

The court can however only try individuals for crimes, not states, and Arreaza did not say if the case specifically named any alleged suspects.

The move came a day after opposition leader Juan Guaido defended foreign sanctions against the country imposed by US President Donald Trump, following his return from an international tour.

Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry last year, targeting the country’s main source of hard currency, and it recently hit its flag airline, Conviasa.

The ICC has already launched a preliminary investigation in 2018 into alleged abuses by Venezuelan security forces during a wave of protests against Maduro.

Canada and five of Venezuela’s regional rivals — Argentina Colombia, Chile, Paraguay Peru — have also formally referred the matter to the court.