International Criminal Court investigation in Venezuela

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A preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to analyze possible crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela is currently open. A preliminary examination was previously opened in 2006, but closed after concluding that the requirements to start an investigation had not been met. In February 2018, the ICC announced that it would open preliminary probes into alleged crimes against humanity performed by Venezuelan authorities since at least April 2017.[1] In 2020, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC stated that it believed there was a "reasonable basis" to believe that "since at least April 2017, civilian authorities, members of the armed forces and pro-government individuals have committed the crimes against humanity",[2] and on 2021 ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announced the opening of an investigation regarding the situation in the country.[3]


By 2006, the Office of the Prosecutor received twelve communications concerning the situation in Venezuela, most of them related to crimes allegedly committed by the Venezuelan government and associated forces and one to crimes alleged to have been committed by opposition groups, but the examination was closed on 9 February 2006 because it was concluded that the Rome Statute requirements to seek authorization to initiate an investigation in the country had not been satisfied.[4]



In February 2018, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it would open preliminary probes into alleged crimes against humanity performed by Venezuelan authorities.[5]

In May 2018, a Panel of Independent International Experts appointed by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) concluded that reasonable grounds existed to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed in Venezuela dating back to at least 12 February 2014 and recommended that; the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, should submit the report and the evidence collected by the General Secretariat of the OAS to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, that he should invite States Parties to the Rome Statute to refer the situation of Venezuela to the Office of the Prosecutor and to call for the opening of an investigation into the facts set forth in the report, in accordance with Article 14 of the Rome Statute.[6]

On 27 September 2018, six states parties to the Rome Statute: Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru, referred the situation in Venezuela since 12 February 2014 to the ICC, requesting the Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to initiate an investigation on crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the territory. On 28 September, the Presidency assigned the situation to Pre-Trial Chamber I.[7] This was the first time that member States had sought an investigation of potential crimes that took place entirely on the territory of another country.[8]


Nicolás Maduro's Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, filed a complaint in the ICC against the United States on 13 February 2020, arguing that policy of sanctions has resulted in crimes against humanity.[9] Prosecutor Bensouda stated that she informed the ICC Presidency of the referral pursuant to the regulations of the court to enable the assignment of the situation to a Pre-Trial Chamber, noting that the two referrals "appear to overlap geographically and temporally and may therefore warrant assignment to the same Pre-Trial Chamber", but "that this should not prejudice a later determination on whether the referred scope of the two situations is sufficiently linked to constitute a single situation".[10]

In September 2020, the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela published their findings and cited evidence of unlawful executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture in the country since 2014. The authors called for further action by the International Criminal Court, along with justice and reparations for the victims and their families.[11]

On 2 December 2020, the Organization of American States General Secretariat released a 145-page report expanding on the 2018 report by the Panel of Independent Experts that concluded there was a reasonable basis to believe crimes against humanity were being committed in Venezuela, noting that since 2018 the crimes against humanity in Venezuela had increased in scale, scope, and severity, while criticizing the failure of the Prosecutor of the ICC to conduct her preliminary examination expeditiously and to open an investigation "despite overwhelming evidence of crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction".[12] Two days afterwards, the Office of the Prosecutor responded that it was aware and that it would study the Organisation of American States report and assuring the Office that it sought to "complete preliminary examinations within the shortest time possible", but regretting "the tone and manner of the report" and that Prosecutor and the Office "would not allow external attempts" to interfere with the process. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro replied shortly after, declaring that the OAS understood due process and that they had "the utmost respect" for the International Criminal Court, but that three years was far too long "not for the OAS", but for the victims in Venezuela.[13]

On 14 December, the Office of the Prosecutor released a report on the office's year activities, stating that it believed there was a "reasonable basis" to believe that "since at least April 2017, civilian authorities, members of the armed forces and pro-government individuals have committed the crimes against humanity." and that it expected to decide in 2021 whether to open an investigation or not.[2]


In May 2021, Maduro's Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, admitted that Fernando Albán, Caracas councilman who died in 2018 while he was detained in the headquarters of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), did not commit suicide as initially reported by government officials, but killed, and that during the 2017 Venezuelan protests student Juan Pablo Pernalete was killed with a tear gas canister by security forces, something initially denied by senior officials.[14] William Saab would also accuse the ICC "process of lacking transparency".[15] Maduro's vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, described the case against Venezuela in the ICC as a "great farce".[16] The opposition National Assembly headed by Juan Guaidó declared that William Saab sought to prevent the ICC from acting and condemned that command chain was not being investigated.[17]

On July 2, the Pre-Trial Chamber dismissed a request for "judicial control" filed by William Saab, who alleged a lack of complementarity and collaboration of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor with Venezuela. The Chamber dismissed the appeal for its inadmissibility and for being clearly premature.[18]

On 4 November 2021 prosecutor Karim Khan announced the opening of an investigation regarding the situation in Venezuela.[3]


On 17 January 2022, the Prosecutor's Office indicated that the administration of Nicolás Maduro had three months to submit its report on investigations into crimes against humanity committed in the country.[19] On 7 April, Tarek William Saab assured that "there is no need" for an investigation by the International Criminal Court.[20]

After failing to provide the requested information, in an attempt to delay the ICC investigation, Venezuela asked Karin Khan on April 15 that his office defer the investigation into possible crimes against humanity, claiming that state institutions were or have investigated such crimes. On April 20, Khan briefed a panel of ICC judges on Venezuela's request, stating that his office would ask the judges to reject the request.[21][22][23]

On 1 November, Karin Khan requested the reopening of the Venezuela investigation, just over six months after Venezuela asked the ICC to defer its investigation, stating that "the deferral requested by Venezuela, at this stage, is not justified, and that the resumption of the investigation should be authorized."[24][25]

In response to the prosecutor's request, the Venezuelan State sent a document on November 10, opposing the direct participation of victims and their representatives and requesting that the investigation be limited to summaries prepared by the ICC's Office of Public Counsel for Victims and only to cases presented by the Office of the Prosecutor. In the document, Venezuela also asks the ICC judges not to allow the participation in the proceedings of Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru, the member states that referred the situation of Venezuela to the Court. The NGO PROVEA warned that the communiqué was part of the Maduro government's dilatory strategy to paralyze the ICC prosecutor's investigation for as long as possible, expressing: "This communication ratifies the Venezuelan authorities' contempt for the victims and their claims for justice, as well as their unwillingness to genuinely comply with the principle of complementarity".[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Situations & Cases - Overview". International Criminal Court Project. 2022-03-22. Retrieved 2022-03-22.
  2. ^ a b "ICC prosecutor sees 'reasonable basis' to believe Venezuela committed crimes against humanity". Reuters. 2020-12-14. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  3. ^ a b "Venezuela faces landmark ICC investigation over alleged crimes against humanity". Associated Press. The Guardian. 2021-11-04. Retrieved 2022-01-20.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "OTP letter to senders re Venezuela 9 February 20061.doc" (PDF). International Criminal Court. 9 February 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  5. ^ "ICC to open preliminary probes in Philippines, Venezuela". ABC News. 8 February 2018. Archived from the original on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  6. ^ OAS (2009-08-01). "OAS - Organization of American States: Democracy for peace, security, and development". OAS - Organization of American States. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  7. ^ "Venezuela". International Criminal Court. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  8. ^ "Venezuela: Six States Request ICC Investigation". Human Rights Watch. 26 September 2018. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Venezuela asks ICC prosecutor to investigate U.S. officials". Reuters. 13 February 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  10. ^ "Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, on the referral by Venezuela regarding the situation in its own territory". Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. 17 February 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  11. ^ "Venezuela abuses amounted to crimes against humanity: UN-appointed panel". UN News. 2020-09-16. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  12. ^ "OAS General Secretariat Report Reaffirms Crimes against Humanity in Venezuela". Organization of American States. 2020-12-02. Retrieved 2021-05-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Fiscal de la CPI y Almagro se enfrentan en Twitter por caso venezolano". Crónica Uno (in Spanish). 2020-12-05. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  14. ^ "Justicia maniobra en casos de Albán y Pernalete para esquivar actuación de la CPI". Suprema Injusticia (in Spanish). Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  15. ^ "Tarek Saab asegura que hay "falta de transparencia" en proceso de CPI". Analítica (in Spanish). 2021-05-01. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  16. ^ "Gobierno de Maduro tilda de "gran farsa" caso contra Venezuela en la CPI". France24 (in Spanish). 2021-05-07. Retrieved 2021-05-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ "AN de Guaidó asegura que Tarek William Saab intenta eludir a la CPI". Runrunes (in Spanish). 2021-05-04. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  18. ^ "CPI desestimó "solicitud de control judicial" presentada por Tarek William Saab". Runrunes. 2021-07-05. Retrieved 2022-08-27.
  19. ^ "La CPI extiende el plazo para que Venezuela informe sobre casos de DD.HH". Agencia EFE. 20 January 2022. Retrieved 2022-08-27.
  20. ^ "En Venezuela "no hace falta" una investigación de CPI, dice el fiscal general". SWI 7 April 2022. Retrieved 2022-08-27.
  21. ^ "ICC prosecutor rejects Venezuela delay request, will seek investigation". 2022-04-21.
  22. ^ "Venezuela: El gobierno de Maduro busca retrasar la investigación de la CPI". Human Rights Watch. 2022-04-22. Retrieved 2022-08-27.
  23. ^ "Oposición aplaude que la Fiscalía de la CPI pida seguir investigación a Venezuela". Agencia EFE. 21 April 2022. Retrieved 2022-08-27. Al finalizar el lapso de dicho aplazamiento sin que el Ejecutivo brindase a la CPI la documentación exigida, el Gobierno solicitó al alto tribunal, mediante una carta con fecha 15 de abril y que trascendió hoy, "abstenerse formalmente de la investigación en favor de las actuaciones realizadas por las autoridades nacionales competentes de Venezuela", para que sean estas las que continúen con el proceso de manera interna.
  24. ^ "Fiscal de CPI busca reanudar investigación sobre Venezuela". Associated Press (in Spanish). 2022-11-01. Retrieved 2022-11-06.
  25. ^ "El fiscal de la Corte Penal Internacional pidió reanudar la investigación por los crímenes de lesa humanidad del chavismo". Infobae (in Spanish). 1 November 2022. Retrieved 2022-11-06.
  26. ^ "Gobierno de Maduro busca impedir participación de víctimas en investigación de la CPI" [Maduro's government seeks to prevent victims' participation in ICC investigation]. El Nacional (in Spanish). 2022-11-16. Retrieved 2022-11-19.