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International Criminal Court confirms opening of office in Venezuela

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, met on Thursday, June 8, with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, and on Friday, June 9, he confirmed the installation of an office in Venezuela. There are no public dates yet. The ICC has been investigating for three years possible crimes against humanity allegedly committed by members of the highest levels of the Venezuelan government.

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The visit that was recorded in a photo. The ICC prosecutor, an institution that is currently investigating possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela, shook hands with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to confirm the installation of an ICC technical assistance office in Venezuela, announced since March 2022, which seeks to achieve greater collaboration “to ensure that there is more justice” in the country, according to prosecutor Karim Khan.

“Now we are going to be able to come to Venezuela more often and work more closely, so that we can help more with technical assistance, with training so that Venezuela can do more to fulfill its obligations under the Rome Statute” , said the prosecutor, sitting next to Maduro in the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.

In this photo released by the press office of the Miraflores presidential palace, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (right) is seen shaking hands with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  Karim Khan (left)
In this photo released by the press office of the Miraflores presidential palace, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (right) is seen shaking hands with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Karim Khan (left) © AFP – ZURIMAC CAMPOS

Maduro and Khan met Thursday night to review the “progress achieved after implementing a first memorandum of understanding” signed between the State and the high court in November 2021.

Origin of the ICC investigation into Venezuela

In November 2021, the International Criminal Court announced the opening of a preliminary investigation into possible crimes against humanity, which have allegedly been committed in Venezuela since 2017 by officials of the government of Nicolás Maduro.

This issue has also been denounced by UN investigators in recent years, who question the Venezuelan justice system for perpetuating human rights abuses as part of a state-imposed policy to stifle opposition.

The ongoing investigation against the Venezuelan government was proposed in 2018 by Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Chile and Canada. Six member countries of the Rome Statute, instrument creating the International Criminal Court, in order to investigate crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war. Thus, the situation in Venezuela was referred to the ICC Prosecutor’s Office.

However, the political landscape has since changed in some of those six countries. In Argentina Alberto Fernández came to power and in Colombia Gustavo Petro, leftist governments, which has represented an opportunity for Nicolás Maduro to renew ties in the regional sphere.

However, if the ICC investigation finds any member of the Venezuelan government guilty, they could be sentenced before the courts in The Hague, because Venezuela signed and ratified the Rome Statute, granting the institution jurisdiction to try Venezuelans.

Approaches between the ICC and Venezuela

This is the third time that the ICC prosecutor has visited Venezuela and there is a constant variable in all the visits: the absence of official information and an agenda that helps to outline the phases and objectives of the meetings.

However, on this occasion, after his meeting with Karim Khan on issues related to the protection of human rights, Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab expressed satisfaction on his Twitter account.

In turn, Maduro reported on his Twitter, hours later, that during the visit of the ICC prosecutor he reviewed the “progress achieved” after the signing of the memorandum of understanding.

“We will continue to expand the work mechanisms with this instance,” Maduro wrote.

Pressure from the Venezuelan opposition

The director of the NGO Access to Justice, Ali Daniels, assured that the memorandum signed on Friday, June 9, must be disseminated so that the “specific dates” for the installation and work of the ICC office are known.

“Everything indicates that in the short term we should have the office established,” said the lawyer and human rights defender.

In addition, he clarified that for him the opening of this space is an “institutional mandate”, which has no direct relationship with the investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity in Venezuela -opened in 2021-, but which allows the ICC prosecutor to “know first-hand what is happening” in the country.

With EFE, Reuters and local media

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Written by Editor TLN

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