CARACAS, Venezuela (NWN) – The International Criminal Court is launching a formal investigation into allegations of atrocities and extra-judicial killings by Venezuelan security forces under President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, marking the first time a country in Latin America has committed possible crimes against humanity. facing investigation. from the court.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan on Wednesday announced the launch of the investigation at the end of his three-day visit to Caracas.
Standing with Maduro, Khan said he was aware of the political “fault lines” and “geopolitical divide” that exist in Venezuela. But he said his job was to uphold the principles of legitimacy and the rule of law, not settle accounts.
“I now ask everyone to give their office a place to do their work as we move towards this new phase,” he said. “I will consider any attempt to politicize the independent work of my office.”
Although Khan did not outline the scope of the ICC’s investigation, it follows a lengthy preliminary investigation that began in February 2018 – later backed by Canada and five Latin American governments in opposition to Maduro – that used excessive force, arbitrarily Concentrated on charges of detention and torture. By security forces during a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in 2017.
Human rights groups and the US-backed opposition immediately celebrated the decision. Since its inception two decades ago, the ICC has focused mostly on atrocities taking place in Africa.
“This is a turning point,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch’s America director. “Not only does this provide hope for the many victims of Maduro’s government, but it is also a reality check that Maduro is held accountable for crimes committed by his security forces and others, in the name of the Bolivian Revolution, with full leeway.” can be held.”
It could be years before any criminal charges are presented as part of the ICC investigation.
Maduro said he disagreed with Khan’s criteria for launching an investigation. But he expressed optimism that a three-page “memorandum of understanding” he signed with the prosecutor would allow Venezuelan authorities to conduct their own proceedings in pursuit of justice, something allowed under Rome statute that allowed the ICC Make.
“I guarantee that in this new phase we will leave the noise to the side and get down to work to find the truth together,” Maduro said.
Maduro’s government also asked the ICC last year to investigate the US – which is not among the ICC’s 123 member states – for its policy of economic sanctions centered on Maduro’s removal. Venezuela equates US sanctions to “unlawful coercive measures” that have led to poverty for millions of Venezuelans.
Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, indicated that there was a reasonable basis for concluding that crimes against humanity were committed in Venezuela, echoing the findings of the United Nations’ own Human Rights Council last year. But he left the decision to open any investigation to his successor Khan, a British lawyer who took over the reins of the ICC earlier this year.
Goodman reported from Miami