Former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz was at The Hague today to present a formal request before the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it try Maduro for crimes against humanity committed during his tenure as president of Venezuela since 2013. The same requests also seeks ICC action against Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez and Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace Nestor Reverol for their leadership role in the brutal repression of political dissent in the country.
In a statement to reporters outside of the ICC headquarters, Ortega Diaz said that she handed over over 1,000 individual pieces of evidence linking Maduro and other regime officials to acts that she considers to be crimes against humanity.
Ortega Diaz’s most shocking allegation involves the number of individuals that she claims have been murdered by regime officials for political reasons. She told reporters that among the evidence that she provided to the ICC today is information pertaining to 1,777 murders that took place in 2015, 4,667 others in 2016, and 1,846 more between January and June of this year which she claims were “conducted under the orders of the Executive [Maduro]”.
The allegations mark the first time that Maduro has been personally accused of being responsible for the violence plaguing the country in an official manner.
The evidence that Ortega Diaz presented to the ICC also includes figures on arbitrary arrests, of which the former attorney general claims to have counted over 17,000 cases. She also claims to have provided evidence to the ICC of “hundreds of cases of torture”.
Ortega Diaz told reporters what she hoped to accomplish with her trip to The Hague:
We are asking that they issue an international arrest warrant against Nicolas Maduro and the other people that we have [accused] today.
The ICC must now decide if the evidence that Ortega Diaz provided in fact constitutes crimes against humanity.
Talks Back on as PSUV, MUD Set to Meet in December
The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Dominican Republic announced today that the ruling PSUV party and the MUD opposition bloc will meet on the island on December 1 and 2 in the hopes of kicking off a new round of dialogue.
The announcement comes just two days after the MUD said that it would not participate in talks that had been scheduled for November 15 because the PSUV would not allow the participation of foreign intermediaries. The statement from the Dominican government confirms that the PSUV relented, and that “the countries accompanying the process [will be] represented by their foreign affairs ministers” at the December meetings.
The participation of foreign intermediaries was one of the MUD’s prerequisite conditions for the talks. The MUD believes that the PSUV will be more likely to engage in talks honestly and adhere to agreements more strictly if the process involves intermediaries from the region.
The same statement from the Dominican government also stressed that the two meetings were “preparatory” in nature, and that during the encounters the two sides would explore the “methodological and technical” aspects of a future dialogue.
The MUD later confirmed that the December 1 and 2 meetings would take place alongside representatives from Mexico, Chile and Paraguay.
In its own press release, the MUD stressed its satisfaction with the announcement, saying:
… we consider it an important step in the direction of rescuing democracy for the Nicolas Maduro has finally agreed to participate in a formal negotiation process with the participation and guarantees of the international community.
Hearings Continue at OAS as Families Share Stories of Grief
The Organization of American States (OAS) continued hearings today to determine whether Maduro regime officials have committed crimes against humanity, a precursor to recommending that the International Criminal Court (ICC) take up the Venezuelan case. The meeting today is the first since September, when the OAS held sessions to hear from victims of the Maduro regime.
During today’s hearing, a man named Jose Pernalete told a panel of international experts the story of his son, Juan Pablo Pernalete, who was killed during an anti-government protest in Caracas on April 26. Pernalete was killed when a National Guard soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at his chest from close range, causing catastrophic damage to his heart and lungs.
At the OAS today, Pernalete Sr. said:
My son was shot with a tear gas canister from a distance of 15 to 20 meters, which caused his death. According to experts, that type of weapon should not be used in that way.
Juan Pablo’s father spoke on the record about the fact that PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello attempted to cover up the killing of his son by claiming that he could not have been killed by National Guard soldiers because there were in fact none in the area at the time of Juan Pablo’s death, and that he had actually been murdered by other protesters. He also told the OAS about the fact that Cabello’s attempted cover-up was later refuted by government officials:
Days after [Cabello made the comment], the attorney general of the republic, Luisa Ortega Diaz, provided toxicology and ballistic reports clarifying that my son had been killed by a tear gas canister. It is important to point out that Ortega Diaz also declared that my son had been killed by a National Guard soldier who fired directly at him.
Pernalete Sr. lamented the fact that, six months after his son’s killing, no suspects have been named. He attributed this to the fact that the Maduro regime is not interested in justice but rather maintaining itself in power at all costs, saying:
It’s state policy in Venezuela to cover up murders and human rights violations.
Pernalete Sr. was accompanied by his wife, Elvira Llovera, who told the OAS about the harrowing moment in which she found out that her son had been killed:
When I got to the clinic I asked where my son was. They showed me to an office, and the mayor of the Chacao municipality, Ramon Muchacho, was there. He said to me: “You must be strong. Your son is dead.”
Llovera also lamented the fact that her son died while protesting peacefully for what he believed in: a change in government. She fired back at the repeated assertions of Maduro and other regime officials that all opposition protesters are violent terrorists, saying:
You can’t overthrow a government by carrying a flag. My son was not a terrorist. The only sin that he committed was thinking differently and not wanting to leave his country. That was his sin, and that of all the youth who were murdered [during the protests]. [The regime] took everything from us.
The OAS also heard testimony from opposition mayors Ramon Muchacho and Gustavo Marcano, both of whom were forced to flee Venezuela due to political persecution, as well as from Kerling Sanchez, the wife of a political prisoner named Ruperto Sanchez.
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