International Criminal Court decision: A crucial step in the fight against impunity in Venezuela

Press release
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Martin Bertrand / Hans Lucas / Hans Lucas via AFP

The important appeal decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) paves the path to continue investigations into crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and PROVEA applaud the decision and recognise its great relevance in a climate of impunity, dominated by a new wave of persecution of human rights defenders and a closing of civic space in the country.

The Hague, 1 March 2024. In a decision issued today, the ICC Appeals Chamber denied the Venezuelan government’s appeal against the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision to authorise resuming the investigation in Venezuela.

During the hearing, announcing the decision, the Appeals Chamber agreed with the Pre-Trial Chamber that Venezuela has not sufficiently investigated crimes against humanity, explaining that "domestic investigations into isolated acts, without examining the systematic nature of their commission and without investigating the factual allegations underpinning the contextual elements (…) fail to address the distinct legal interests protected by crimes against humanity".

The appeal filed by Venezuela’s representatives in June 2023 was the last in a series of appeals aimed at halting the resumption of the investigation by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor. This investigation focuses on crimes committed primarily in the context of the 2017 protests, where patterns that would constitute crimes against humanity were identified.

In April 2023, the vast majority of the 8,900 victims who delivered their views to the ICC categorically requested that the ICC Prosecutor resume the investigation into the situation in Venezuela, referring to the situation of impunity and the lack of genuine investigations in the country. This was confirmed during the appeal hearings organised in November 2023.

It is important to recall that in December 2020, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor concluded that there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity, including arbitrary detention, torture, rape and/or other forms of sexual violence and persecution, had been committed in Venezuela by civilian authorities, members of the armed forces and pro-government individuals.

In a context marked by the dismantling of the rule of law in the country and a new wave of persecution against all dissident voices, the ICC’s response is an important turning point, as it allows for the investigation of serious violations of human rights and international criminal law committed by the Maduro regime to move forward. An example of this persecution, which continues to increase in the country, is the case of Rocío San Miguel, a historic human rights defender, who was arrested and arbitrarily prosecuted on 13 February 2024 for alleged acts of espionage and conspiracy, accusations that lack evidence.

FIDH and PROVEA are also concerned that the Venezuelan government recently announced the immediate expulsion of the representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from the country. In light of this new decision, they urge the Venezuelan government to cooperate fully with the ICC Office of the Prosecutor in its investigation and within the framework of the cooperation agreement signed with the ICC.

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