Spain Sends the Case Brought Against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the International Criminal Court

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Saturday, June 1, 2002
Elizabeth Borburg
Judge Ferando Andreu of the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s national court with jurisdiction over certain types of criminal matters, decided in late March to defer prosecution of the case brought against Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In doing so, Justice Andreu bolstered the legitimacy of the ICC, commenting that the establishment of the ICC would not make sense if such cases were decided in national courts. On January 28, 2003 President Chavez and a group of Venezuelans government officials were charged with crimes against humanity, human rights violations and terrorism in the Audienceia Nacional. The Chavez case follows on the heels of similar cases brought in Spanish courts over the past few years, the most notable being the case of genocide brought against Chilean General Augusto Pinochet in 1998 and the case of genocide brought against Guatemalan government officials by the Nobel Peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu in 1999. Laws providing jurisdiction to the Spanish Tribunal over crimes against humanity and terrorism can be found in the Spanish Organic Law of Judicial Power. Article 65 of the Organic Law of Judicial Power states that the Criminal Court of the Audiencia Nacional may claim jurisdiction over cases involving crimes committed outside the national territory when in conformity with laws or treaties corresponding to such prosecutions in Spanish courts. Likewise, Article 23.4(a) of the Organic Law of Judicial Power states that Spanish courts will have jurisdiction over those acts committed by Spaniards or foreigners outside the Spanish territory if such acts can be characterized as genocide or terrorism.