Popping the Party
Beatrice E. Rangel
“Criminal groups have wasted no time in embracing today’s globalized economy and the sophisticated technology that goes with it. But our efforts to combat them have remained up to now very fragmented and our weapons almost obsolete.”
These were Kofi Annan’s opening remarks at the signing ceremony for the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC) . Almost 20 years thereafter the situation did not seem to have improved until Thursday March 27th 2020 when the US unsealed indictments against the President of Venezuela and the Chief Justice and the Minister of Defense as well as 11 other top dignitaries.
Charges were drug trafficking money laundering and terrorism. Such action departed from the US approach to fight crime when perpetrators where elected officers. Usually certain immunity was granted up and until the mandate expired or the person of interest was removed from his/her public office. By unsealing the indictments the US has chosen the UNCTOC road to deal with the Venezuelan regime.
And this decision is as significant for international law and relations as that taken many moons ago by a then young and idealistic Spanish magistrate, Baltazar Garzon to uphold international human rights law against Augusto Pinochet the Chilean dictator on charges of “suspected genocide and terrorism”.
Prior to the arrest of Pinochet in London Human Rights abuses had gone largely unpunished as perpetrators were or had been public officers. The prevailing doctrine was that when individuals acted as representatives of a state they were pursuing national interest for this reason they are not liable to prosecution for their acts while in office.
Following a fought out legal battle, the British courts rejected Pinochet’s claim that he was entitled to immunity as a former head of state and ruled that he could be extradited to Spain to stand trial. And while Mr Pinochet never went to Spain jurisprudence was established. To be sure, the case had a double impact upon international law. It strengthened the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states or international organizations to prosecute individuals regardless of the place where the crimes were committed and the nationality of the perpetrators and victims.
It also withdrew the immunity of heads of state or ex heads of state for human rights violations. The unsealing of the indictments against the Venezuelan dignitaries bears similar impacts upon international law. First it reaffirms the applicability of universal jurisdiction. Second, it globalizes the principles upholding the RICO legislation which was created to fight organized crime.
From the political view point the unsealing of indictments also indicate the US does not recognize Mr maduro as a legitimate head of state. Also by virtue of posting rewards for anyone producing information leading to the arrest of the indicted dignitaries creates around each of them an environment of fear and mistrust in everyone surrounding them that could lead to desperation.
And as we all too well know desperation is divine poison as it leads persons to take wrong and hurtful decisions. Ultimately it is their own doings that brings them down. Because as Annan indicated .”They are powerful, representing entrenched interests and the clout of a global enterprise worth billions of dollars. But they are not invincible”. Because they cannot withstand the universal enforcement of rule of law.
Published by laht.com on Monday, March 30, 2020
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