By Julia Tibbetts , CNN Written by
The International Criminal Court is opening a preliminary examination into whether crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela, under the right to “self-determination.”
The role of the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the situation remains unclear, but the preliminary examination of the situation comes at a time of increasing criticism of the country’s political and economic situation, which has prompted some 17 million people to flee the country.
On Sunday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza criticized the ICC for what he called a “hostile and suspicious approach” and “negative attitude” towards the Venezuelan government.
The ICC said in a statement it will examine the context of political and economic events between April 2017 and June 2018, and will do so “by establishing, if necessary, ad hoc preliminary examinations of the situation in Venezuela and the circumstances surrounding the investigation or referral of crimes against humanity there.”
This will form the basis of a preliminary examination that the ICC’s prosecutor will then decide on whether to open a full investigation.
Maduro has overseen Venezuela’s descent into an economic and political crisis since taking office in 2013, during a widespread period of political unrest and with 90% of the population in poverty.