Venezuelan Authorities Meet with International Criminal Court Prosecutor

The Attorney General invited the ICC to visit Venezuela and make a first-hand evaluation.

By Manuela Solé
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Attorney General Tarek William Saab and ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. (ICC)
Attorney General Tarek William Saab and ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. (ICC)

Mérida, November 11, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab and Ombudsman Alfredo Ruiz met with International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

In a press conference on Monday, the two Venezuelan officials reported on their visit to The Hague to brief ICC authorities on Venezuelan government actions to tackle alleged human rights violations.

"We ratified [in the meeting] the commitment of the Venezuelan state and its institutions to investigate, prosecute, charge and convict those responsible for human rights violations," Saab told reporters. Currently the ICC is in preliminary phase investigations to determine whether there have been cases in Venezuela that fall within its competence.

“Both cases remain in a preliminary examination to determine if an investigation will be opened or not,” the attorney general explained, adding that the ICC does not substitute Venezuela’s criminal legislation but rather it has a complementary character in conformity with the Rome Statute.

In 1998 Venezuela signed the Rome Statute and in the year 2000 it was ratified.

The ICC is currently evaluating two cases, one brought forward by the opposition and the other by the Venezuelan government.

In September 2018, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, with support from the US and allied countries, filed a suit before the ICC accusing the Nicolas Maduro government of being responsible for “crimes against humanity” during anti-government protests in 2017.

For several months, Venezuelan opposition groups staged violent street protests known as “guarimbas” with the goal of toppling the government. Clashes with security forces left over 100 people dead, between opposition members, government supporters, security forces personnel and bystanders.

The opposition’s case was boosted by a report delivered in September by the so-called Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela established by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) which accused President Maduro and other high government figures of widespread human rights violations.

The Venezuelan government rejected the report, labeling it as “biased” and arguing it had methodological issues, among them that the authors did not set foot in Venezuela.

The second ICC request was filed by Venezuela’s government in February. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called on the court to open an investigation concerning the effects of Washington’s unilateral coercive measures, or sanctions, describing them as “crimes against humanity”.

The US Treasury Department has imposed successive rounds of sanctions against the Caribbean nation, targeting the Venezuelan economy and the oil sector in particular. A report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that the measures had been responsible for at least 40,000 deaths.

Edited and with additional reporting by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.

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