In a primetime speech Tuesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos condemned the arbitrary deportation of over 1,000 Colombians from Venezuela as a human rights violation, asserting that his government is “seriously considering” taking Venezuela to the International Criminal Court and denouncing it before the UN.
Venezuela began a process this week of extracting Colombian nationals from towns and cities on their mutual border, breaking into homes– many of them of mixed nationality– and taking away the Colombian citizens in that home. Given the closeness of the two countries and that border’s relative openness traditionally, Colombians and Venezuelans have for generations enjoyed the ability to move freely there. In his speech, President Santos noted that he had visited the newly-arrived, deported Colombians and heard harrowing stories of human rights violations.
“Just as they did in the Nazi ghettos, they [the government] marked [Colombian] family homes with a ‘D’ for ‘demolish,'” he explained, a tactic used more recently in Mosul, “Where is the world when this happened?'” Santos asked, “The question we have today is, ‘Where is our region?'” He added that “The property of the humble has been confiscated… families have been separated,” and many have been beaten.
In his visit to those victimized by the socialist Venezuelan state, Santos noted he met a five-year-old girl who said she was beaten with rifles on the way out of Venezuela, as well as a septuagenarian woman who had been evicted. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has asserted– as have his representatives at the United Nations— that the deportations are a way to keep Colombian “right-wing” paramilitaries out of Venezuela.
“Who could believe this five-year-old was a paramilitary fighter?” Santos asked.
The President concluded, noting that he had called for an emergency summit of the Organization of American States, expressing pessimism regarding receiving support there, given the many socialist nations in South America that ally with Venezuela (Ecuador, for example, has already called for a boycott of Colombian products in solidarity with Venezuelan repression). To that end, Santos asserted that he is “strongly considering” a case before the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights bodies. Colombia’s Attorney General, he stated, “is seriously considering presenting a complaint to the ICC against members of Venezuela’s civilian and military leadership, who may be responsible for crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute.”
“He who is right does not need to shout in order to be heard,” Santos concluded, a final barb against the notoriously vociferous Maduro.
Colombian officials estimate that more than 7,000 people have returned to Colombia. Most of these have fled their homes hoping to avoid being violently extracted by Venezuelan officials. Those of mixed nationality report that many families have split, the Venezuelan citizen staying home in the hope of protecting their property from the government. It is estimated that nearly 300 children are missing one or both parents in Venezuela due to these deportations. Colombian officials have also documented “multiple cases” of women and underaged girls claiming that Venezuelan soldiers “sexually abused” them on the way out of Venezuela and back to Colombia. This allegation may fit the definition of the Crime Against Humanity of Sexual Violence, as per the Rome Statute.