The ICC Seeks To Reopen Venezuela Investigation On Human Rights Abuses

On November 1st, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan formally asked the court to continue the investigation into the alleged human rights violations committed in Venezuela. This is in response to a deferral request made by Venezuela to delay the ICC’s investigation into their officials. It is now up to judges at the ICC to determine if the situation should be deferred under Venezuela’s request, or if the investigation can resume.

In his statement following his application to resume the investigation, the prosecutor stated that while they have conducted an extensive assessment of the information provided by Venezuela under their deferral request, he has concluded that the request is not warranted. He said that if Venezuela’s internal reform efforts are appropriately implemented there might be hope for change, however as of now, their efforts have not had any impact on the proceedings. The prosecutor also stated that he does plan on continuing to support these efforts to hold domestic proceedings that comply with the Rome Statute.

According to US News, in April of 2022 Venezuela cited that their reason for the request was that local authorities were ready to conduct their own investigation into the alleged crimes committed under the rule of President Nicolás Maduro. In their nine reports submitted to the Office of the Prosecutor, Venezuela also stated that they are undergoing efforts to establish reforms to strengthen their abilities in the field of justice.

By stating that he is committed to cooperating with authorities and commending the Government of Venezuela for its constructive engagement since the start of the preliminary investigation, it is clear that Khan and the ICC are attempting to resolve Venezuela’s peace and stability issues as respectfully as they can. However, it is also important for the Court to recognize that what Venezuela claims to be doing is not sufficient, and accepting their deferral request would only allow the abuses to continue.

In her request to open a preliminary examination in 2018, former Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that it was alleged that “state security forces frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations and arrested and detained thousands of actual or perceived members of the opposition, a number of whom would have been allegedly subjected to serious abuse and ill-treatment in detention.” She also cited that numerous protestors resorted to violence, which resulted in some security forces being injured and killed.

The accredited Human Rights Watch provided further evidence as they stated that the United Nations International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela concluded that there are “reasonable grounds to believe that… crimes against humanity were committed” by authorities, including murder, arbitrary detentions, and torture.

It is up to the ICC judges at this point. However, the ICC’s decision should be focused on setting a precedent for states that attempt to conceal human rights abuses. It is clear that there is unrest under President Maduro, and accepting their deferral request would only further these issues. It is important for the ICC to address this instability and to adhere to the values of universal human rights and peace.