Press release

Venezuela: ICC Investigation Sends Strong Message to Human Rights Abusers in Latin America

The investigation offers hope to victims and their families by opening a possibility that perpetrators of international crimes will be identified and held to account before international tribunals.

In response to the announcement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will open a formal investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Freedom House welcomes the ICC’s announcement that it will open a formal investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela,” said Gerardo Berthin, director of Latin America and Caribbean programs at Freedom House. “The announcement confirms what victims, civil society organizations, and international organizations have denounced for years—that grave human rights violations and politically motivated persecution and repression, including torture and extrajudicial executions, have occurred with systemic impunity in Venezuela since at least 2017. The announcement also sharply undermines Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro’s façade of international cooperation and hollow commitment to justice that the regime has erected in recent months, including purported judicial reforms that have only further hindered transparency.”

"The ICC’s investigation offers a glimmer of hope to victims and their families by opening a real possibility that perpetrators of international crimes will be identified and held to account before international tribunals. The investigation could also contribute to future reparations processes for victims. Moreover, by initiating the investigation phase in Venezuela, the first ever in Latin America, the ICC sends a clear message to human rights abusers in the region and throughout the world that they can and will be held accountable for their actions," Berthin added.

Background:

On November 3, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan announced the opening of an official investigation into crimes against humanity in Venezuela, marking the first ICC case in Latin America to move to the formal investigative phase. Prosecutor Khan and Maduro signed a Memorandum of Understanding, committing Venezuela to comply with the ICC investigation.

In September 2018, six Latin American countries petitioned the ICC to open an investigation into Venezuela, the first time ICC member governments have done so for potential crimes that took place entirely on the territory of another country. The Organization of American States’ (OAS) panel of experts and the United Nations Independent Fact Finding Mission for Venezuela (FFM) have also publicly recognized evidence of crimes against humanity in Venezuela.

In 2020, during a preliminary examination into those alleged crimes, the ICC recognized that a reasonable basis exists to suspect that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction have occurred in Venezuela. With the initiation of the investigative phase, the ICC moves to the next stage in its legal process.

Venezuela is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2021. Please find a Spanish translation of the Freedom in the World 2021 report on Venezuela here.