On April 21, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan rejected Venezuela’s request to delay an ICC investigation into alleged human rights violations. Khan also signaled his intention to resume the investigation as soon as possible.
“Having reviewed the basis of the deferral request, I have concluded that no new information had been submitted that would warrant a revision of my earlier complementarity assessment,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “In support of the deferral request, Venezuela attaches no supporting material. Instead, it refers to the nine reports it had previously submitted to the OTP [Office of the Prosecutor] since 2020, during the preliminary examination of the situation and thereafter,” Khan said.
Caracas had sought the delay from the ICC to show that authorities there could conduct their own investigations into alleged crimes committed since 2017 under the Nicolás Maduro regime.
“Under ICC rules, member states themselves have the duty and first right to prosecute alleged atrocities on their own soil,” Reuters reported. Khan, however, said that Venezuela has not demonstrated that local accountability efforts were sufficient and would therefore seek an ICC-led investigation.
Crimes against humanity
In December 2020, the OTP concluded in a report that there was a reasonable basis to believe that, since at least April 2017, civilian authorities, members of the Armed Forces, and pro-regime individuals have committed crimes against humanity in Venezuela.
Among those crimes, the document mentioned “imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law,” “torture,” and “rape and/or other forms of sexual violence.”
“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by regime forces; forced disappearances by the regime; torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention by security forces; political prisoners or detainees,” the State Department 2021 Human Rights Report says about Venezuela.
“The Maduro regime took no effective action to identify, investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights abuses or corruption,” the report adds.
In an April 20 press briefing, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken reiterated the U.S. commitment “to a world in which human rights are respected, their defenders are free from repression, and those who commit human rights abuses are held accountable.”