The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will continue to investigate the Venezuelan regime for alleged crimes against humanity, which would make it possible to establish “specific” and “individual” responsibilities for the facts, human rights experts said.
On June 27, the Pre-Trial Chamber authorized ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume the investigation, arguing that the Venezuelan regime “is not investigating or has not investigated criminal acts” that may constitute crimes against humanity.
The ICC Prosecutor’s Office announced in 2021 that it would open the investigation. The regime of Nicolás Maduro requested a postponement, but at the end of 2022, Khan asked the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization to continue it.
Resuming the investigations also means that victims of new cases can send information to the ICC, said Ali Daniels, a professor of international humanitarian law and co-director of Access to Justice, a civil association dedicated to monitoring the administration of justice and the rule of law in Venezuela.
“The prosecution can prosecute these new cases and can gather information and evidence. In the future, the Prosecutor’s Office will be able to present concrete cases with first and last names of possible perpetrators,” he told Voice of America.
Daniels stressed the importance of the decision because “it is no longer the NGOs who say that there is no justice in Venezuela, but the Pre-Trial Chamber.”
Alfredo Romero, director and president of Foro Penal, an NGO that provides assistance to arbitrarily detained persons and their families, said that the decision translates into a “victory” for the victims.
Although this is a process for which there is no established time frame, from now on “formally beginning to collect evidence and testimonies” so that a judicial process can be carried out to determine specific responsibilities, Romero said.
Fernando Fernández, professor of international criminal law and human rights, said that the parties cited as investigated will have “all the rights to have their cases thoroughly reviewed,” which takes time.
“These are complex and extremely difficult cases where there are a number of guarantees and rights that are in the Statute. A lot of people think this is immediate. We always put it in terms of these being very intense and long drawn out races,” he told VOA.
Calixto Avila, a human rights lawyer with Provea, one of the oldest fundamental rights NGOs in Venezuela, pointed out that the decision to continue the investigation took place in “quite a reduced” time frame compared to the two precedents.
In the case of Afghanistan and the Philippines, both currently under investigation, the judges’ decision occurred, respectively, six and four months after the presentation of the victims’ report. In the case of Venezuela, it took just under two months.
Daniels points out that the fact that the Pre-Trial Chamber has ruled more quickly compared to the others is due to the fact that the Venezuelan case is “more compelling.”
In the Venezuelan case, some 8,900 victims went to the Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS) of the ICC to present testimonies, opinions, and concerns, while in the case of the Philippines, for example, there were about 300.
The Venezuelan regime questioned on June 27 the decision of the ICC Chamber to authorize the resumption of the investigation and announced that it “will appeal this decision” before the Appeals Chamber.