Mexico City, Mexico, April 4, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro welcomed the opening of an International Criminal Court (ICC) office in Caracas after a three-day visit by prosecutor Karim Khan.
At a joint press conference, Maduro said “the doors of Venezuela were open” to the court’s lead prosecutor and his team.
Khan’s visit to the Caribbean country is the second since he announced his decision to open a full-scale investigation into alleged human rights abuses in Venezuela. During his visit in November, the government of Venezuela and Khan signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to facilitate cooperation.
Khan announced that as part of efforts to facilitate cooperation, the ICC would open a “technical assistance office” in Caracas.
The ICC prosecutor added that agreements were also reached concerning “technical-level engagements” and multiple-entry visas for ICC staff.
Following his visit, Khan said that he felt ”significant steps have been taken to deepen cooperation.”
For his part, President Maduro said the aim of the office was to encourage “effective dialogue” to clarify alleged human rights abuses in a timely manner.
“I believe we have reached a significant agreement with the Government of Venezuela to work together with international partners, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on appropriate measures to facilitate implementation of the commitments set out in MoU,” read a recent statement by Khan posted to the ICC website.
Venezuela extended its memorandum of understanding with the United Nation’s Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights last year and expanded its cooperation with the UN body, with the number of Human Rights Officers in the country increasing from six to 12.
In September 2018, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, with support from Washington and a handful of allied countries, filed a suit before the Hague-based court accusing the Maduro government of carrying out crimes against humanity. The ICC investigation stems from the state’s response to the 2017 violent anti-government protests that saw US-backed opposition groups block roads, burn people alive, firebomb buildings and clash with security forces.
“We are the first to be interested in the complete prevalence of human rights,” said Maduro at the press conference.
The drive to have the ICC open an investigation into alleged human rights abuses in Venezuela took on a political character, with government opponents such as Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro openly pushing for a probe.
After Khan announced his decision, Caracas opted to pursue a collaborative approach with the ICC, which is defined as a “complementary” court that opens legal proceedings in cases in which national legal institutions fail to address alleged violations.
In the case of Venezuela, Khan appears to be interested in assisting in efforts to improve the country’s administration of justice. The prosecutor added that his office would facilitate “technical assistance and knowledge transfer to domestic authorities in Venezuela to support the effective investigation and prosecution at the national level of alleged crimes, and the provision of training and expert advice in order to strengthen implementation of relevant domestic legislation.”
Khan, who took office as ICC prosecutor less than a year ago, has stressed “the principle of complementarity that lies at the heart of the Rome Statute” in carrying out his duties.
The assistance from the ICC comes in the midst of what Maduro described as a “profound reform” of the country’s justice system.
The pair likewise announced that as part of the implementation of the MoU, a series of meetings and conferences on international criminal justice would be held in Caracas in 2023.
Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab previously criticized the global court’s lack of collaboration with the nation’s judicial system despite submitting eight reports detailing efforts to advance cases and bring charges against state security officials who allegedly committed abuses in recent years.
Khan recognized that the Venezuelan government maintains that the conditions for an investigation have not been met and praised their efforts to strengthen coordinated work.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.