Venezuela to prosecute lawmakers who backed failed uprising

Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello speaks during a rally in support of the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela April 30, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 May 2019

Venezuela to prosecute lawmakers who backed failed uprising

  • Pence hinted that the United States could impose sanctions on the Venezuelan judges if they use the court as “a political tool for a regime that usurps democracy

CARACAS: Venezuela will prosecute seven lawmakers who backed last week’s failed uprising orchestrated by opposition leader Juan Guaido, the country’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, as Washington removed sanctions against Caracas’ sacked spy chief for backing the revolt.
The court, which announced the ruling in a statement, said it asked Attorney General Tarek William Saab to handle the “criminal investigation” into opposition deputies for “high treason” and “conspiracy.”
Soon after the announcement the Constituent Assembly — which effectively acts as a regime rubber stamp — stripped the seven lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity.
“What comes now? A trial,” said Constituent Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello, the regime’s second most powerful figure after President Nicolas Maduro.
Cabello ominously added that three unnamed other lawmakers had been identified and would undergo the same process.
The list includes Henry Ramos Allup, the former speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly — but not Guaido, its current head, recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by more than 50 countries.
In Washington, US Vice President Mike Pence kept up the pressure on President Nicolas Maduro’s shaken regime by announcing that sanctions against his sacked intelligence chief General Christopher Figuera were being lifted.
Pence, speaking at the State Department, said he hoped that Figuera’s defection would inspire other senior Venezuelans to break ranks with Maduro.
Washington “will consider sanctions relief for all those who step up for the constitution and support the rule of law,” Pence said.
“I hope the actions our nation is taking today will encourage others to follow the example of General Cristopher Figuera,” he said.

Pence hinted that the United States could impose sanctions on the Venezuelan judges if they use the court as “a political tool for a regime that usurps democracy, indicts political prisoners and promotes authoritarianism.”
“If the Supreme Court in Venezuela does not return to its constitutional mandate to uphold the rule of law, the United States of America will hold all 25 of its magistrates accountable for their actions,” Pence said.
In his speech, Pence also announced that a US Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, will return to the area in June for a five-month mission aimed at assisting neighboring countries that are caring for some of the millions of Venezuelans who have fled their country’s crumbling economy.
The other lawmakers named on the Venezuelan Supreme Court prosecution list were Edgar Zambrano, Luis Florido, Marianela Magallanes, Simon Calzadilla, Americo De Grazia and Richard Blanco.
The Constituent Assembly has said it would suspend the immunity of any lawmakers who backed the April 30 uprising, which set off two days of violent clashes between security forces and protesters that left five people dead.
Dozens more were injured and more than 233 were arrested in the unrest.
Saab, the attorney general, has said separately that authorities have already issued 18 arrest warrants against “civilians and military plotters” following the April 30 uprising.
The international Contact Group on Venezuela, which met in Costa Rica’s capital San Jose on Tuesday, announced it would send a high-level mission to the crisis-wracked country to monitor humanitarian aid distribution and encourage dialogue.


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.