The International Criminal Court will open a formal investigation into the human rights violations of the government of Nicolás Maduro

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will open a formal investigation into the human rights violations of the government of Nicolás Maduro "to establish the truth in accordance with the Rome Statute, following the visit of the prosecutor of the high court, Karim Khan" to Venezuela.

The ICC prosecutor has concluded the preliminary examination of the situation in the Caribbean country and has determined that an investigation should be opened to establish the truth in accordance with the Rome Statute," according to a memorandum of understanding signed with Venezuela and read in front of Khan and dictator Nicolás Maduro.

The text states that Venezuela "interprets that the requirements of Article 53 of the Rome Statute are not met to justify the transition from the preliminary examination phase to the investigation phase." That article states that "the prosecutor, after assessing the information available to him, shall initiate an investigation unless he determines that there is no reasonable basis for conducting it under this (Rome) Statute".

Faced with this situation, the Maduro government "considers that the complaints should be investigated in the country by the existing national institutions created for this purpose,"the memorandum explains.

The document signed by Khan and Maduro also states that in the preliminary phase "no suspect or any target has been identified and that the investigation aims to determine the truth and whether or not there are grounds to file charges against any person."

In that regard, the parties agreed that Venezuela, as a national jurisdiction, "shall adopt all necessary measures to ensure the effective administration of justice, in accordance with international standards, with the support and active commitment of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court by virtue of the principle of complementarity."

It also "establish mechanisms to improve cooperation between the parties and facilitate the effective performance of the prosecutor's mandate" in Venezuela.

In addition, they have chosen to "strive to agree on means and mechanisms that contribute effectively to the efforts of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to carry out authentic national actions." Finally, they agreed to "work so that the principle of complementarity has an adequate and significant effect."

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court presented his arguments against Maduro and the leadership of his government in the Miraflores Palace. During his speech, he asked that the work of his office not be politicized. "I am fully aware of the failures that cross and exist in Venezuela, the geopolitical divisions, we are not politicians. They are not guided by the principles of legality, and the rule of law. I will ask everyone now at this time, as we move into this new phase, to give my office, my office, the space necessary to carry out your work."

"Frankly I will analyze and take into account, and I would not like any effort dedicated to politicizing the independent work that my office carries out. Any person, any just person should applaud and work with all those who wish to approach legality and fly the flag of justice," he added.

Khan signed a memorandum of understanding at the Miraflores Palace with dictator Maduro, who spoke out against the prosecutor's decision to move the investigation into a new phase. "The Prosecutor has decided to move on to the next phase, we do not agree with that decision. However, we respect it," said the Chavista president.

"I am pleased that through the letters we have just signed, we are committed to working collaboratively and independently (…) It has been about three days of a lot of work, of frank and open debate. A constructive dialogue," Khan said.

Former prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced in November last year that there were"reasonable grounds to believe"that crimes against humanity were committed but, after her departure, the case has been left in the hands of Khan,who must make the final decision.

Bensouda left his post at the ICC on June 15 this year and in his latest report noted that there is "a reasonable basis" to believe that "crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed since at least 2017."

In her final days, the Gambian lawyer said she intended to call for a formal investigation into crimes committed by Nicolas Maduro's government forces in Venezuela,but that she was prevented at the last moment after Caracas asked judges to take control of the case.

"With respect to Venezuela, I had pledged to reach a final determination, as far as possible, for the remainder of my term. Perhaps in anticipation of that outcome, as you may have seen in the media, an ICC chamber received a file from the Government of Venezuela requesting the Chamber to exercise judicial control over the conduct of our preliminary examination. This was presented confidentially, so I cannot refer to them in detail, although the fact of their presentation has been publicly mentioned by the Venezuelan authorities themselves," Bensouda wrote, a farewell letter.

In the letter, the ICC's chief prosecutor says she had reached a final conclusion on the investigation and was prepared to present it, but that with the appeal filed by the Maduro government, she has decided to wait for the ICC chamber's decision before making any announcements.

The ICC has been holding a preliminary examination of Venezuela since February 2018 for alleged abuses of its security forces, both in demonstrations since April 2017 and in some prisons where opponents have been mistreated.


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