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17 Dec

UN court asked to probe Venezuela

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The call came as Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro made an unexpected trip to the United Nations.Six nations have made the unprecedented move of asking the United Nations’ International Criminal Court to investigate Venezuela for possible crimes against humanity.

The call came as President Nicolas Maduro made an unexpected trip to the world body’s headquarters to deliver a nearly hour-long speech declaring his nation “will never give in”.

Maduro’s speech at the General Assembly gathering of world leaders came hours after Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Canada formally asked the ICC to investigate Venezuela on a range of possible charges, from murder to torture and crimes against humanity.

The six countries hope the move puts new pressure on Maduro to end the violence and conflict that have sent more than two million people fleeing and made Venezuela’s inflation and homicide rates among the highest in the world.

Venezuelan officials have widely rejected international criticism, saying they’re driven by imperialist forces led by the US to justify launching an invasion.

And Maduro sounded a defiant tone on Wednesday, complaining that Washington was attacking his country through sanctions and other means and strong-arming other countries into going along in a “fierce diplomatic offensive”.

“(The US) wants to continue just giving orders to the world as though the world were its own property,” Maduro said. “Venezuela will never give in.”

But at the same time, he said he was willing to talk with Trump.

Wednesday marked the first time that member countries have referred another country to the Netherlands-based UN court.

Canada was among nations referring Venezuela to the ICC, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seized the moment to defend the idea of global justice the court represents – the day after Trump attacked it in a stinging speech that challenged multilateral organisations.

Its chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, already has opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that Venezuelan government forces since April 2017 “frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations,” and abused some opposition members in detention.

It is now up to the prosecutor – who didn’t immediately comment on the request – to decide what to do next.

The six-country referral could broaden the scope of the ongoing preliminary probe to the more serious charges levelled at Venezuela on Wednesday and extend the time frame back to 2014.

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