International Criminal Court Investigates Abuses in Venezuela

AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

By Miguel Del Rivero, 2L

On November 3, 2021 the International Criminal Court announced the opening of a formal probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed under the rule of Nicolás Maduro. The probe centers around allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings that were committed by Venezuelan security forces. This inquiry into the alleged crimes committed under Maduro’s rule has been under investigation since 2018 and is now entering a “new phase” led by head prosecutor Karim Khan of the ICC. This investigation is the first of its kind in Latin America and may provide information on to the alleged crimes against humanity that has occurred in the country in the past years

There are reports from political detainees who have spoken out against the government and the political retribution they faced for such acts. At a United Nations panel, one female witness spoke at length of her arrest and subsequent torture at the hands of Maduro’s security forces following a street protest. Another individual spoke about being detained in a confined space by these security forces under similar circumstances. Jose Miguel Vivanco, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, welcomed this formal investigation by the International Criminal Court. He stated, “This is a turning point, [n]ot only does it provide hope to the many victims of Maduro’s government, but it also is a reality check that Maduro himself could be held accountable for crimes committed by his security forces and others with total impunity in the name of the Bolivarian revolution.”

This probe is a blow to the legitimacy that Maduro has sought to garner on the international stage while claiming to act as the official president of Venezuela. The U.S. supported opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, said the formal opening of the investigation “vindicates the right to obtain justice that has been denied in Venezuela for the victims and their families.” On the other hand, Maduro stated on state TV that the “prosecutor has decided to proceed to the next phase to seek the truth. We do not share the decision but we respect it.”

While this formal investigation has commenced, the ICC indicates that this is merely the start of a long process. There are currently no individuals who are targeted or suspected of committing these crimes. Through this formal investigation, the ICC—and the world—hopes to investigate multiple alleged crimes against humanity that were committed under Maduro’s watch and potentially deliver justice to the people of Venezuela.

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