THE HAGUE -- A group of Venezuelan lawyers on Wednesday presented to prosecutors attached to the International Criminal Court accusations that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is violating the human rights of political prisoners.
The prisoners' representative, Herman Escarra, told Efe that the complaint "is seeking protection in Article 7 of the Rome Statue, which speaks of the crime against humanity of not respecting human rights."
In force since July 2002, the Rome Statute is that which regulates the functioning of the ICC.
Based in The Hague, the ICC is the top permanent international judicial entity tasked with pursuing and punishing the most serious crimes against international law.
Escarra said that Venezuelan authorities are holding defendants for up to six years pending trials, though the law limits pre-trial detention to two years.
The lawyer said he represents "38 political prisoners, (those imprisoned) by presidential whim or personal prisoners," that is to say people arrested at the request of the leftist president for personal reasons.
As an example, he noted the case of "young businessman Gustavo Arraiz, who was arrested for an alleged relationship with the daughter of President Chavez, when that was not true."
"A file was opened on him, he was imprisoned and his family was persecuted," Escarra said.
With the complaint presented on Wednesday, "we're initiating the opening of a case against President Chavez," Escarra said, adding that he did not know how much time the ICC prosecutors will need to analyze the suit and decide whether or not to open an investigation against the Venezuelan leader.
The ICC never comments on the complaints presented to it, but rather only on the suits into which - after its study of the cases - it decides to conduct its own investigation.