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LATIN AMERICA | 06-04-2024 22:17

Argentina court reopens probe into alleged crimes against humanity in Venezuela

Court in Argentina, citing principle of universal jurisdiction, orders re-opening of investigation into crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Venezuela.

A court in Argentina on Friday ordered the re-opening of a previously shelved investigation into crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Venezuela, operating under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

"It is appropriate to assume the universal jurisdiction and extraterritorial competence of the Argentine judicial bodies" to judge "systematic and widespread conduct associated with crimes against humanity," three judges from the Federal Chamber of Buenos Aires said in a statement reproduced by local press outlets.

In July 2023, Argentine prosecutor Carlos Stornelli adhered to a complaint by the The Clooney Foundation for Justice  regarding events that occurred during opposition protests in Venezuela in 2014, when the Venezuelan government authorised security forces to "use violence against the civilian population," said the ruling.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice provides free legal support to victims of abuses of power. It was founded by actor George Clooney and his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

The defendants in the case are President Nicolás Maduro, Chavista number two Diosdado Cabello, "and all those identified as responsible ... for serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity,” it said.

The plaintiffs, who are not identified, suffered "the persecution and murder of their relatives, in a context that is public and has repercussions beyond territorial borders," the text indicates.

A judge in Argentina had previously ordered that this and other proceedings be shelved because the International Criminal Court (ICC) had already been investigating similar allegations against Maduro since 2018. It referred the complaints to the international court in The Hague.

But the victims involved appealed this decision, arguing that the ICC investigation does not prevent another country from investigating and stating that it is unknown whether The Hague is considering the same cases covered by the complaint filed in Argentina.

Given the "extreme gravity" of the facts, "it is necessary to revoke the decision" to close the case, wrote Judges Leopoldo Bruglia and Pablo Bertuzzi. 

Judge Mariano Llorens also cited the "Rome Statute," a treaty ratified by Argentina, which establishes the principles of universal jurisdiction for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

"Let us remember that Argentina has been recognised worldwide for its work in these trials," he said, referring to the nation’s historic trials prosecuting crimes against humanity committed by the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

The development comes at a time of growing tension between the governments in Argentina and Venezuela.

Six members of the opposition linked to political leader María Corina Machado, who face arrests, have taken refuge in Argentina’s Embassy in Caracas. The government of President Javier Milei is attempting to get them out of the country and reports say that Venezuela will grant them safe passage.

On March 1, the ICC ordered the resumption of an investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during a crackdown on anti-Maduro protests in 2017, in which more than 100 people were killed.

Venezuela will hold presidential elections on July 28, in which Maduro will seek a third consecutive six-year term.


– TIMES/AFP

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