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11/06/2021

International Criminal Court (ICC) in Venezuela

International Criminal Court (ICC) in Venezuela

From November 1 to 3, 2021, a mission of the International Criminal Court visited the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela within the framework of a process that began after the violent demonstrations that occurred in the Caribbean country in 2017. The last step of said process took place on the afternoon of November 3, in the historic Sol del Perú room of the Miraflores Palace, where the Venezuelan Head of State and Government, Nicolás Maduro Moros, and the Chief of the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Court, Karim AA Khan QC, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The instrument of cooperation that shows – once again – the full decision of the institutions of the Venezuelan Public Power and the Bolivarian government to collaborate with the ICC Prosecutor’s Office “reaffirming the inalienable will to deliver justice to the last consequences,” according to a statement released by the Venezuelan Ministry of People’s Power for Communication and Information.

In February 2020, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela denounced before the International Criminal Court that the unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) of the United States against the Venezuelan government and people constituted crimes against humanity. The case is under preliminary examination.

President Maduro classified the MOU as “a historical document” that synthesizes the progress in the work between the ICC and Venezuela based on “positive complementarity.” In this way, an investigation is formally opened “for alleged crimes against humanity that occurred in Venezuela since April 2017.” The Venezuelan president expressed himself in this regard through his Twitter account:

“We respect the decision of the ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC, to advance to the next phase to seek the truth. Venezuela guarantees justice with institutions that are willing to improve, perfect and advance. For there to be peace, there must be justice”.

And he added:

“I signed a #Historical Document with Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC, the memorandum of understanding between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the International Criminal Court. It expresses the synthesis of a working day of advancement for positive complementarity.”

This document announces that the ICC formally opens an investigation for alleged crimes against humanity that occurred in Venezuela since April 2017.”

For his part, the Attorney General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Tarek William Saab Halabi, indicated that “the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim A.A. Khan, by signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), has shown that he “trusts the Venezuelan justice system.” In that sense, Saab maintains that the ICC recognizes the efforts that the country has made to deal with justice cases of Human Rights violations, so much so that the investigations of the International Criminal Court will be carried out entirely in Venezuelan territory, based on the files and investigations carried out by the Public Ministry, the public prosecutors and the competent Venezuelan institutions.

This will allow the International Criminal Court to know the investigation and the evidence that the Bolivarian Government surely has on the violent events that the Caribbean country has. In other words, the ICC-Venezuela cooperation grants the possibility of defense to a party (the Maduro government) that was not being considered in the ICC’s examinations and investigations. It is worth remembering that the so-called “guarimbas” (riots) in Venezuela did not begin in 2017, in that year they had a significant implosion, but the Venezuelan opposition used – from day one of Maduro’s presidency and also under the mandate of Hugo Chávez – Anti-democratic and violent means to generate social unrest.

Similarly, it is well known that the vast majority of violent opposition demonstrations have been sponsored by the United States government, closely supported by the Colombian government, the Lima Group, the Organization of American States (OAS) and other regional actors, States and international institutions. The objective was clearly not to respect human rights in Venezuela or to help the Venezuelan people, who were systematically suffocated by sanctions and blockades that violate International Law. The only objective was to put an end to the constitutional mandate of President Nicolás Maduro through non-democratic and interventionist channels, an example of this is the various coup attempts, assassinations and thousands of violent demonstrations, in addition to the incessant media attacks against the Bolivarian process.

In the usual belligerent tone, the Venezuelan opposition saw the visit of the ICC Prosecutor and the signing of the MOU itself as a great victory over “the Maduro dictatorship.” Juan Guaidó, pseudo-president in charge of Venezuela, commented on his Twitter account: “The formal opening of the investigation for crimes against humanity, by the International Criminal Court, vindicates the right to obtain justice that has been denied in Venezuela to the victims and their families”. Already in his role as fictitious head of state, he stated: “We ratify our fight for justice and our commitment in this regard: to collaborate with all investigations that contribute to the determination of the truth and the establishment of individual criminal responsibilities throughout the chain command”.

It is worth remembering that the recognition of two presidents for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela by a part of the “International Community”, a part that would never allow / recognize the same for their own countries, goes against not only International Law, but is also contrary to the larger organic manifestation of the “International Community”: since the United Nations (UN) has never recognized Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. Clearly what moves that group of countries in the world that accept a second president without going through the polls is the fear that a revolution will occur in their own lands.

It is worth remembering that the recognition of two presidents for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela by a part of the “International Community”, a part that would never allow / recognize the same for their own countries, goes against not only International Law, but is also contrary to the larger organic manifestation of the “International Community”: since the United Nations (UN) has never recognized Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. It seems clear, or at least possible that, what moves this group of countries to give international recognition to a second president – without going through the polls – is the fear that a real revolution will occur in their own lands. That is, it is not respect for human rights or freedom that motivates them, but political conservatism.

Memorandum of Understanding between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, hereinafter the “Parties”;

Considering that the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela establishes the guarantee of human rights as guiding principles and incorporates reparation for victims and the imprescriptible of crimes against human rights;

Considering that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has been a State Party to the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court since July 7, 2000;

Recalling the support of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the mandate of the International Criminal Court, considering that serious crimes that concern the international community should not go unpunished and that their effective prosecution should be guaranteed, including through the adoption of measures at the national level and strengthening international cooperation;

Considering that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has concluded the preliminary examination of the situation in Venezuela I and has determined that an investigation should be opened to establish the truth in accordance with the Rome Statute;

Considering that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela interprets that the requirements of Article 53 (1) of the Rome Statute are not met to justify the passage from the preliminary examination phase to the investigation phase;

Noting that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela considers that the complaints should be investigated in the country by the existing national institutions created for this purpose;

Emphasizing that, despite differences of opinion on this issue, the Parties remain committed to actively collaborating with each other and supporting efforts beyond the principle of complementarity;

Considering that the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will recognize the efforts, reforms and investigations carried out in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela;

Considering that this letter of understanding is without prejudice to the full rights conferred by the Rome Statute to the States Parties, including, among others, the provisions of Article 18;

Considering that at this stage no suspect or target has been identified at this stage and that the objective of the investigation is to establish the truth and whether or not there are grounds to accuse someone;

Considering that the Prosecutor will enter into the arrangements or agreements, which are not incompatible with the Rome Statute, that are necessary to facilitate the cooperation of a State, in accordance with Articles 54 (3) (d), 86 and 93 of the Statute of Rome and that the principle of complementarity is the basis of the Rome Statute;

Considering the intention of the Parties to enter into an agreement to facilitate said cooperation and mutual assistance;

THEY HAVE AGREED

1. That the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, as a national jurisdiction, will adopt all necessary measures to ensure the effective administration of justice, in accordance with international standards, with the support and active participation of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court by virtue of the principle of complementarity;

2. Establish mechanisms to strengthen cooperation between the Parties and facilitate the effective performance of the Prosecutor’s mandate in the territory of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

3. To strive to agree on means and mechanisms that effectively contribute to the efforts of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to carry out authentic national actions in accordance with article 17 of the Rome Statute.

4. Work so that the principle of complementarity has an adequate and significant effect.

Signed in Caracas, on November 3, 2021, in two authentic copies.

Micaela Ovelar
Political scientist and international adviser, Argentine-Venezuelan scholar, feminist and social activist. Micaela has a B.A. in Political Science, a Masters in International Relations; with studies in issues of gender, government, democracy, and the state. She was the international relations adviser of president Hugo Chavez and has worked with the Venezuelan government for the last 15 years.She is also an independent journalist, producer, and in Film & TV Direction from EMPA (Venezuela). She was a producer and commentator at Radio Alba Ciudad (Caracas). Micaela worked as translator and transcriptionist on “South of the Border” by Oliver Stone, archival research on "Silvio Rodríguez. My first calling" by Catherine Murphy, and as a journalist for “Correo del Alba.” (Bolivia-Venezuela).

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