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ICC Prosecutor Mr. Karim AA Khan QC opens investigation into situation in Venezuela and concludes Memorandum of Understanding with government

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ICC Prosecutor Mr. Karim AA Khan QC opens investigation into situation in Venezuela and concludes Memorandum of Understanding with government

I am reassured and happy that by signing this Memorandum of Understanding, Venezuela and my office commit to working together

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands, November 9, 2021 / APO Group / –

I have just returned to The Hague from a productive mission in Caracas, in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Between October 31, 2021 and November 3, 2021, I had constructive and frank discussions with senior government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of civil society.

I express my gratitude to the Venezuelan authorities for their official invitation and for engaging with my delegation and myself in what was a short but significant timeframe. With regard to government officials, my delegation and I have met on several occasions with the Vice-President as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic. In addition, we have had meetings with the Attorney General, the President of the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman, the President of the National Assembly and other representatives of the State.

It was particularly remarkable that the President of the Republic, His Excellency Mr. Nicolás Maduro Moros, engaged directly with me for three days in meetings totaling almost 10 hours. While the discussions were frank, they were at all times courteous and conducted in a constructive spirit. I thank the President, other officials and stakeholders for working with my delegation and myself in this way throughout our visit.

Since taking office as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”), I have reviewed the assessment carried out under my predecessor, while continuing to seek a constructive dialogue with the Venezuelan authorities in order to to maintain and deepen cooperation as envisaged by the Rome Statute.

Venezuela ratified the Rome Statute on June 7, 2000 and has been a State Party ever since. The Office of the Prosecutor (“the Office”) opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Venezuela in February 2018. A few months later, on September 27, 2018, the Office received a referral (https://bit.ly/3qumkFI ) of a group of States parties to the Rome Statute requesting the opening of an investigation into crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the territory of Venezuela.

As I have said repeatedly, preliminary examinations should not take too long and should be concluded as soon as the Rome Statute criteria have been properly assessed on the basis of the best available information.

There are sometimes misunderstandings about what a screening is – and what it is not. It is therefore important to stress that the screening process is a screening mechanism. No investigation has yet been carried out in Venezuela by my office. There are no targets or suspects at this stage of the proceedings. Only by opening a formal investigation, however, can the truth be determined. In this regard, I have stressed during my various meetings in Caracas that article 54-1-a of the Rome Statute requires my Office to investigate the incriminating circumstances and to exonerate them in order to establish the truth.

The investigation – now open – is not one-sided. This is only the start of a process.

The government of Venezuela was of the opinion that the conditions for an investigation were not met. Despite this, I consider it to their great honor that they have made a commitment to cooperate with my Office as we move to this new stage. I have been invited to return to Venezuela, as have the members of my Bureau. Along with the investigation that we will now begin, I will continue to seek meaningful ways to cooperate and engage with the authorities and all other stakeholders in the search for the truth.

My office will support any sincere and meaningful effort undertaken by the Venezuelan government to reform and revitalize the judicial and penal system in order to allow genuine accountability in Venezuela for the victims of alleged crimes. The principle of complementarity is the foundation of the Rome Statute system and remains an important principle during the investigation phase.

The proof of the constructive and sustained level of engagement with the Venezuelan authorities during my stay in Caracas takes shape in the joint signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on November 3, 2021, at the presidential palace. This MoU paves the way for continued dialogue and cooperation as we move into the next phase of this situation. As the MoU clearly indicates and as I have publicly stated, the preliminary examination of the situation in Venezuela (Venezuela I) has ended following a thorough and independent process with a conclusion that there is a reasonable basis for investigating.

I am reassured and happy that by signing this Memorandum of Understanding, Venezuela and my Office undertake to work in collaboration, while also being independent and impartial, but in full respect of the principle of complementarity, and to pursue the cooperation and mutual assistance. This is the best way to promote the values ​​and principles of the Rome Statute.

Finally, while we do not ignore the political discourse and the fault lines in Venezuela or the regional context, it is important that the space is given to my Office to do its work. We will do our work independently and without any political agenda. We work as officers of the Court in accordance with the values ​​and principles of the Rome Statute. As I have said before, we will rather take a dim view of any attempt to use the openness for political gain or to politicize the independent work of my Office.

We must have enough principles to encourage and support any person or authority that comes close to the law and the principles of the Rome Statute. Ultimately, with patience, cooperation and determined professionalism, the truth will be established. I ask for patience and support as this process now moves into its next stage.

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

English (https://bit.ly/306Im6k) | Spanish (https://bit.ly/3wwCBv1)

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been investigating multiple situations within the jurisdiction of the ICC, notably in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of Congo ; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Ivory Coast ; Mali; Georgia, Burundi; Bangladesh / Myanmar, Afghanistan (pending judicial authorization to resume investigation following initial request for postponement of article 18) Palestine and Philippines. The Office is also currently carrying out preliminary examinations relating to the situation in Bolivia; Guinea and Venezuela II; and completed its preliminary examinations of the situations in Ukraine and Nigeria, which are pending applications for authorization to proceed with an investigation.

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