Venezuela: ICC Prosecutor’s primary consideration in opening an investigation must be timely and effective justice for victims

In response to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announcing that it is opening an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International said: 

“The International Criminal Court has finally recognized the urgency of investigating the crimes against humanity that multiple human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have documented and denounced for years in Venezuela. The Office of the Prosecutor must fully investigate the atrocities committed against the Venezuelan people, pursuing cases against those who bear the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity.” 

The ICC Prosecutor has announced the conclusion of his Office’s preliminary examination in Venezuela – which it had opened in 2018 – with a determination that a full investigation is warranted. The Office of the Prosecutor had previously found that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro’s government, since at least 2017, including arbitrary detentions, use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as persecution. 

In a public announcement, Prosecutor Khan and President Maduro explained that they had agreed to a “Letter of Understanding”. Prosecutor Khan also highlighted the importance of “positive complementarity” in his approach to the Venezuela investigation.

“This is the first ICC investigation into a country in the Americas. To be effective, the ICC must commence as soon as possible, and should impartially investigate those most responsible for the systematic policy of repression and social control in Venezuela, since at least 2014, as noted by the United Nations’ Fact-Finding Mission in its reports in September 2020 and September 2021,” added Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“While a cooperative approach to investigations would be desirable, the Prosecutor should listen to calls from victims who are yet to see justice and recognize that his Office’s intervention is urgently needed for prompt and effective investigations of crimes against humanity in Venezuela. Although the ‘principle of complementarity’ urges the Prosecutor to call on Venezuelan authorities to carry out independent and impartial domestic investigations in Venezuela, he must not be deferential to state proceedings at all costs. In particular, when states are not genuinely willing or able to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law themselves – including investigations into those at senior levels or most responsible.”

“Above all, the Prosecutor’s approach must ensure that the rights to justice of victims and survivors of human rights violations in the country are respected and fulfilled by the Court and in Venezuela. It is paramount that human rights defenders who have sought justice at the ICC should be protected against any reprisals.”