Venezuelan Opposition Case Thrown Out of International Criminal Court

The prosecutor in charge of exmining the evidence for a case against President Hugo Chavez, for crimes against humanity, dismissed the case, saying that plaintiffs had privuded insufficient evidence for a trial.

Caracas, Venezuela, February 17, 2006—The International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected an appeal by Venezuelan opposition groups to prosecute the Venezuelan government for human rights violations. Chief Prosecutor for the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said the charges had a, “lack of precision as well as internal and external inconsistencies in the information.”

The ICC was set up by international treaty in 1998. Its purpose is to deal with the most serious human rights violations such as war crimes or crimes against humanity. Venezuela signed up to the ICC in June 2000.

Charges were first brought to the court in 2003 by Venezuelan lawyers representing Venezuelans associated with the opposition. The lawyers argued that they had suffered crimes against humanity at the hands of the Venezuelan government.

Most of the crimes they say they suffered were during the April 2002 coup, when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his government were briefly removed from power before being restored days later by the military and popular protests.

On February 9, the ICC issued a statement saying the court was unable to move forward with a formal investigation. This was because the information provided did not match the allegations.

First, the ICC said no evidence had been given to the court, “to believe that war crimes have been committed.” For the information provided relating to crimes against humanity, the ICC said the, “numerous” factual problems meant it was not, “reliable.”

Problems included naming the same person repeatedly on lists of alleged murder victims. Many claims were made without names or dates. There were also, “frequent inconsistencies in victims’ names, ages, and location of alleged incidents.”

All of this made it impossible to begin an investigation in Venezuela relating to the charges, the ICC said. Despite this, Moreno-Ocampo said, “These conclusions may be reviewed in the light of new facts or evidence.”

Alfredo Romero, Gonzalo Himiob Santome, Antonio Rosich, and Eduardo Meier, are lawyers representing VIVE one of the many opposition groups making the claims to the ICC.

They said they will be searching for more evidence to give to the ICC, although they felt what they had before was good enough, according to the Venezuelan news channel Globovision.

The Venezuelan Ambassador to the Netherlands, Agustín Pérez Celis, said the ICC had analysed the information given to them, “in a clear and convincing manner.” The claims were made as part of a strategy to destabilise the Venezuelan government, Pérez Celis said.

The Venezuelan ambassador said during the 2002 coup, “the same opposition groups spread a series of reckless denunciations in diverse international forums against the Venezuelan government, searching for international intervention.”