ICC prosecutor seeks to resume Venezuela investigation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor sought Tuesday to reopen his investigation into allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings committed by Venezuelan security forces under President Nicolás Maduro’s rule.

Prosecutor Karim Khan's request for authorization to resume the probe comes just over six months after Venezuela asked the court to defer its investigation to authorities in the Latin American nation.

The ICC is a court of last resort that investigates alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave offenses when nations are unable, or unwilling, to do so — a system known as complementarity.

But Khan said Tuesday that “I have concluded that the deferral requested by Venezuela is, at this stage, not warranted, and that the investigation should be authorized to resume.”

He acknowledged that Venezuelan authorities have launched legal reforms, but said that they currently “remain either insufficient in scope or have not yet had any concrete impact on potentially relevant proceedings.”

The case was brought to the court by member states Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru, who sought an investigation into alleged crimes since early 2014.

Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, conducted a preliminary probe and in 2020 said she found a reasonable basis to conclude that crimes against humanity had been committed in Venezuela, since at least April 2017. The preliminary examination focused mainly on allegations of excessive force, arbitrary detention and torture by security forces during a crackdown on antigovernment protests in 2017.

Khan subsequently opened his investigation in November last year — the first by the court in Latin America — saying he and his team would “do our work independently and devoid of any political agenda.”

Khan commended Maduro's government “for its constructive engagement” with the court and said it is now up to judges to decide on Venezuela’s deferral request and his application to resume his investigation.

“Irrespective of the outcome, I remain committed to engagement and dialogue to explore ways in which we can cooperate to ensure justice for victims in Venezuela,” he added.

Mike Corder, The Associated Press