First inter-state referral to the ICC on Venezuela: An important but insufficient precedent set

Press release
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On 26 September 2018, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru referred the situation of Venezuela to the International Criminal Court (ICC or the Court), asking the Court to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela since 12 February 2014. This move marks the first state referral of another State Party’s situation in the history of the ICC, and the first collective referral taken by six States Parties to the ICC Statute. Our organisations encourage the referring States to support and cooperate with the ICC Office of the Prosecutor, and to join efforts in using all possible avenues for accountability and for sustainable solutions to the increasingly grave humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

"This inter-state referral does not change the ongoing preliminary examination that the ICC Office of the Prosecutor has been undertaking since February, in which it is analysing if international crimes committed in Venezuela fall within its jurisdiction. It is however sending a sign that countries in the region should get actively engaged in supporting regional efforts towards accountability for the grave human rights violations committed in Venezuela but also in other countries in the region”

Gloria Cano, FIDH Vicepresident

The ICC Prosecutor announced in 8 February 2018 that her Office had opened a preliminary examination into the situation of Venezuela in the context of demonstrations and related political unrest, and that it will analyse crimes allegedly committed in this State Party since at least April 2017. Among these crimes are the alleged use of excessive force against demonstrators, as well as the arrest and detention of thousands of people, whom often were subjected to serious abuse and ill-treatment. The alleged crimes additionally include the injury or killing of members of security forces by some groups of protesters. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 124 people have been killed in the framework of the protests: 46 killings were allegedly have been committed by the security forces and 27 by the pro-government armed groups.

Similarly, in Venezuela there is a dramatic situation in terms of access to the right to food, health, water, adequate housing, adequate living conditions, situations that have led to approximately 1.6 million people leaving Venezuela, to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Chile in recent months, as reported by the International Organization for Migration.

“While steps taken towards accountability for serious crimes are commendable, such steps must be accompanied by concrete responses to Venezuela’s complex humanitarian crisis. The international community, and in particular the states from the Americas region, must provide an adequate response to the thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the repression of the Maduro government and the economic collapse in the country.”

Rafael Uzcategui, Provea's General Coordinator

While the inter-state referral does not automatically lead to the opening of an investigation, it enables the Prosecutor to open an investigation, if she decides to do so once she concludes the preliminary examination of the situation, without seeking the authorization of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber.

Finally, our organisations remind Venezuela and all States Parties of their obligation to cooperate with the ICC, and calls on them to take all necessary measures to ensure that the Court is equipped with the resources it needs for carrying out its mandate.

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