The International Criminal Court (ICC) declared this Monday that Nicolás Maduro’s regime committed crimes against humanity in Venezuela.
Through a report the ICC concluded that the dictatorship, through various institutions such as the Bolivarian National Police (PNB), the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), is the culprit of the constant violation of human rights in Venezuela.
“In relation to the alleged role of the aforementioned actors, the potential case (s) identified by the Prosecutor’s Office would not be limited to these persons or groups of persons and an attempt would be made to examine the alleged responsibility of those who appear to be the those most responsible for such crimes,” reads the document.
Here is the full statement:
Report on preliminary examination activities
III. SITUATIONS IN PHASE 3 (ADMISSIBILITY)
198. The situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (“Venezuela”) has been under preliminary examination since February 8th, 2018. During the reporting period, the Office of the Prosecutor has continued to receive communications pursuant to Article 15 regarding this situation.
199. On February 8th, 2018, the Prosecutor opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Venezuela since at least April 2017. On September 27th, 2018, the Prosecutor’s Office received a referral from a group of States Parties to the Statute namely, the Republic of Argentina, Canada, the Republic of Colombia, the Republic of Chile, the Republic of Paraguay and the Republic of Peru (the ‘sending States’) in relation to the situation in Venezuela. In accordance with Article 14 of the Statute, the sending States requested the Prosecutor to initiate an investigation for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the territory of Venezuela since February 12th, 2014, in order to determine whether to charge the committing such crimes to one or more persons.
200. On September 28th, 2018, the Presidency of the ICC assigned the situation in Venezuela to Pre-Trial Chamber I. On February 19th, 2020, the Presidency reassigned the situation in Venezuela I from Pre-Trial Chamber I to the Pre-Trial Chamber III.
Preliminary jurisdictional issues
201. Venezuela deposited its instrument of ratification of the Statute on June 7th, 2000. Consequently, the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes of the Rome Statute committed in the territory of Venezuela, or by its nationals, as of July 1st, 2002.
202. During the reporting period, the Office of the Prosecutor completed its analysis of material jurisdiction in relation to the situation in Venezuela I. After a detailed evaluation and analysis of the available information, the Office of the Prosecutor concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed in Venezuela since at least April 2017.
203. In particular, given the scope and range of the different crimes allegedly committed in the context of the situation, the Office of the Prosecutor focused its analysis on a particular subgroup of allegations related to the treatment of persons in detention, about which detailed information and reliable was available as to the specific elements of the Rome Statute crimes.
204. Specifically, and without prejudice to other crimes that the Prosecutor’s Office may determine at a later stage, the Prosecutor’s Office has concluded that the information available at this stage provides a reasonable basis to believe that, at least since April 2017, civil authorities, members of the armed forces and individuals in favor of the Government have committed the crimes against humanity of imprisonment or other serious deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental norms of international law, in accordance with paragraph 1 (e) of article 7, torture; in accordance with article 7, paragraph 1 (f), rape; and/or other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity, pursuant to article 7, paragraph 1 (g); and persecution of a group or collectivity with its own identity based on political motives, in accordance with article 7, paragraph 1, subparagraph h) of the Rome Statute.
205. The information available to the Prosecutor’s Office provides a reasonable basis to believe that the members of the security forces presumably responsible for the material commission of these alleged crimes include: the Bolivarian National Police (“PNB”); the Bolivarian Police Service National Intelligence (“SEBIN”); the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (”DGCIM”); the Special Actions Force (“FAES”); the Scientific, Criminal and Criminal Investigations Corps (“CICPC”); the Bolivarian National Guard (“GNB”); the National Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Command (“CONAS”) and certain other units of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (“FANB”).
206. In addition, the information available indicates that individuals in favor of the Government also participated in the repression of opponents of the Government of Venezuela, or people perceived as such, mainly acting together with members of the security forces or with their consent. In relation to the presumed role of the aforementioned actors, the potential case (s) identified by the Prosecutor’s Office would not be limited to these persons or groups of persons and an attempt would be made to examine the presumed responsibility of those who appear to be the most responsible for such crimes.
207. During the reporting period, the Office of the Prosecutor sought to advance its analysis on admissibility in terms of complementarity and gravity. In this regard, the Prosecutor’s Office asked the Venezuelan authorities to provide information from the competent national authorities regarding the nature, scope, and progress of the national processes that correspond to the material findings of the Prosecutor’s Office, as indicated above.
208. On November 4th, 2020, the Prosecutor met with a high-level delegation that included the Attorney General, Mr. Tarek William Saab, and the Ombudsman of Venezuela, Mr. Alfredo Ruiz, at the seat of the Court in The Hague, The Netherlands. The meeting provided an opportunity to exchange with the delegation on a number of aspects related to the preliminary review process and sought to gather information on relevant national procedures and their compliance with the requirements of the Rome Statute. The Venezuelan delegation stated that it was willing to cooperate with the work of the Office of the Prosecutor within the framework of the Rome Statute.
209. On November 30th, 2020, the Venezuelan authorities submitted an initial response to the request for information from the Prosecutor’s Office regarding the relevant national processes. The information presented includes a report from the Venezuelan authorities that respond to the detailed set of questions posed by the Prosecutor’s Office in its request for information. The Venezuelan authorities also presented four voluminous annexes that provide concrete data on the national processes carried out before the ordinary and military jurisdictions, and before the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as copies of judicial documents that detail national processes. The material received has been incorporated into the evaluation of the Office of the Prosecutor, also in order to evaluate its relevance for the preliminary examination and to inform the analysis on admissibility underway. The Venezuelan authorities promised to provide the rest of the information requested by the Prosecutor’s Office by January 2021.
Activities of the Prosecutor’s Office
210. During the reporting period, the Office of the Prosecutor continued in contact with the Venezuelan authorities, international organizations, and multiple stakeholders and information facilitators in order to address various relevant aspects for its material examination of the situation, as well as to discuss issues of admissibility.
The Prosecutor’s Office also took note of the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, published on September 15th, 2020, and the report of the Venezuelan government entitled “The Truth of Venezuela against infamy. Data and Testimonies of a Country Under Siege ”.
211. The Office of the Prosecutor has also taken note of the report of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) entitled “Promotion of impunity: the impact of the failure of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into the possible commission of crimes against humanity in Venezuela “.
The OAS report criticizes the Office of the Prosecutor for the pace of the preliminary examination, for not expediting its consideration based on the referral submitted by the group of sending States, and alleges that the Office of the Prosecutor has not acted impartially and objectively in accordance with to its mandate and to its own strategic and policy guidelines, including with respect to the scope of its findings to date.
212. The Office regrets the tone and form of the report issued by the General Secretariat of an international organization with which the Office and the Court as a whole hope to cooperate in a spirit of good faith and mutual collaboration. The Office understands the frustration that the report seems to motivate, which stems from an expressed expectation that the Office will prioritize its consideration of the alleged crimes in this situation in relation to the alleged crimes committed in others. Similar observations have been made to the Prosecutor’s Office calling for the prioritization of certain situations in each preliminary examination, in accordance with the legitimate expectations of the victims to obtain justice. However, the Office of the Prosecutor should also be allowed to carry out its work independently and impartially, without attacks on the integrity of the Prosecutor or the Office of the Prosecutor. As noted below, recently the Prosecutor’s Office has made public its determinations on material jurisdiction, reached during the first part of this year, and has indicated its objective to conclude its preliminary examination in the first half of 2021 to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to start an investigation.
213. Regarding the scope of its findings to date on alleged crimes, the Office of the Prosecutor wishes to recall that the main objective of a preliminary examination is to determine whether the threshold required to open investigations has been satisfied. The task of the Prosecutor’s Office is not to report or take part in a comprehensive mapping of all the alleged crimes that have been committed in a situation – a task for which not only other competent entities are more suitable, but would also do the preliminary examination process highly inefficient. In order to reach this determination regarding compliance with the required threshold, the Prosecutor’s Office has consistently focused in all situations on a set of alleged criminality that seems so representative of a broader pattern of victimization that it requires investigation, but that is also better supported by the information available at that time. As the Office of the Prosecutor has consistently noted in all situations, and the Appeals Chamber has recently confirmed, the examples of criminality identified by the Prosecutor for the purpose of establishing the threshold are carried out without prejudice to the subsequent future scope of any investigation, if and when it is opened, which could span any of the alleged crimes that are encompassed in the situation. Consequently, the positive findings of the Office of the Prosecutor regarding the threshold of material jurisdiction in the preliminary examination stage should not be interpreted as a rejection of other alleged crimes that may merit investigation.
Conclusion and next steps
214. The Office anticipates completing the preliminary examination in order to determine whether there is a reasonable basis for an investigation during the first part of 2021.