ICC to probe possible Venezuela rights violations

Handout photo released by the Miraflores presidential palace press office showing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro (R) while speaking with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, (L) at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on November 3, 2021. – Khan arrived Sunday in Venezuela as part of a 10-day tour in Latin America. (Photo by Venezuelan Presidency / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE-MANDATORY CREDIT – AFP PHOTO / VENEZUELAN PRESIDENCY – NO MAFRKETING – NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) — The International Criminal Court will investigate whether crimes against humanity were committed during Venezuela’s clampdown on anti-government protests in 2017, President Nicolas Maduro and ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said Wednesday.

After a preliminary evaluation, Khan “has decided to move on to the next phase to seek the truth,” the president said. “As a state, we respect his decision, although we do not share it.”

“I ask everyone, as we enter this new phase, to give my office space to do its work,” added Khan.

When the ICC opened the preliminary investigation in 2018, Khan’s predecessor Fatou Bensouda said there was a “reasonable basis” to believe the government had committed crimes against humanity.

Maduro complained that the Venezuelan state was not given access to the documents and information evaluated during that phase.

“We were blind in that stage,” said the president.

During Khan’s three-day visit, which began on Sunday, small groups of family members of the victims of the alleged rights abuses held street protests demanding an audience with Khan.

On Wednesday there was also a small protest outside the intelligence services headquarters in Caracas, where opposition figures are being held.

“I’m fully aware of the flaws that exist in Venezuela, the political division. We (the ICC) are not political, we are guided by the principles of legality and the rule of law,” said Khan.

Khan and Maduro signed an agreement to collaborate on the next step of the investigation.

The ICC prosecutor praised the “constructive dialogue” he had following meetings with Maduro, Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez, Attorney General Tarek William Saab and representatives of the Supreme Court.ezue

© Agence France-Presse