International Criminal Court to Open Venezuela Probe in Blow to Maduro
(Bloomberg) -- The International Criminal Court plans to investigate the Venezuelan government for alleged crimes against humanity in a fresh blow to President Nicolas Maduro’s attempts to win back legitimacy on the international stage.
Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan QC said his office will move to a “new phase” from the preliminary inquiry opened in 2018, and examine crimes allegedly committed by government security forces against the Venezuelan population.
The announcement followed a three-day visit to the country by Khan in which he held talks with Maduro, government agencies and international and local organizations. The Venezuelan government also signed a memorandum of cooperation with the court, known as the ICC, Wednesday.
The start of a formal probe comes as Maduro is trying to regain footing internationally by offering to talk with adversaries such as the U.S. and Colombia. Shortly after it was announced, Maduro said he disagreed with the decision. “The prosecutor has decided to proceed to the next phase to seek the truth,” he said on state TV. “We do not share the decision but we respect it.”
Opposition leader Juan Guaido said in a tweet the investigation “vindicates the right to obtain justice that has been denied in Venezuela for the victims and their families.”
The investigation stems from claims by human rights groups that government security forces used excessive force to put down street demonstrations and arrested and detained thousands of members of the opposition.
Human rights group Foro Penal called the opening of the probe “a milestone” but warned that the investigation will be a long process.
“This is a fundamental step toward restoring the rights of victims and justice,” said Gonzalo Himiob, the group’s director. “This does not mean that justice is around the corner, there is a long way to go. It is an endurance race.”
Khan asked for space to do his work and said he would not let politics interfere.
“I’m fully aware of the fault lines that exist in Venezuela, of the geopolitical divisions that exist,” he said.
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