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FACT SHEET: Process to Analyze Whether the Situation in Venezuela merits referral to the International Criminal Court

  September 13, 2017


  • Since the end of the Cold War, the United Nations Security Council has clearly established the relationship between crimes committed on a massive scale within a state and international peace and security. 
  • The UN Security Council referred the situations in Darfur (Sudan) in 2005 and Libya 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court because they were considered “a threat to international peace and security.” In 1991, under the same consideration, the UN Security Council considered that “the repression of the Iraqi civilian population,” especially the destabilizing effect for the region of the “flow of refugees … across international borders…”. Such a crisis is now taking place in the Americas, where thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing to neighboring countries.
  • Venezuela is a state party to the Rome Statute, therefore the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction to act if it deems it necessary.
  • The Secretary General, in his report of July 19, 2017 considered that there is evidence that “points to the systematic, tactical and strategic use of murder, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as tools to terrorize the Venezuelan people…”  which could be crimes against humanity and should be brought to the attention of the International Criminal Court.


  • To lead an effective review process of the situation of violence and repression in Venezuela, the OAS Secretary General has appointed a Special Advisor on Crimes against Humanity, Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, who served as the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (2003-2012).
  • Article 15 of the Rome Statute stipulates that to identify crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the Prosecutor shall initiate a preliminary investigation on the basis of information received.
  • The process facilitated by Dr. Moreno Ocampo seeks to compile information to eventually help the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court initiate an investigation of the situation in Venezuela
  • Dr. Moreno Ocampo, will facilitate through an impartial and independent process, the compilation of evidence that provides a reasonable basis for knowing whether crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela, the identification of their possible perpetrators, the existence of national investigation procedures, and other elements required under the Rome Statute.
  • The results of the process will be submitted to OAS Permanent Council and the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Assessment Process

  • In September and October, public hearings will be held at OAS headquarters to consider whether the situation in Venezuela meets the requirements of Article 53.1.a through 53.1.c of the Rome Statute for initiation of an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

The following matters would be discussed at the hearings: 

  • Unlawful deprivation of physical liberty, torture, and rape indicative of a pattern tending to show that they were committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.
  • Murders indicative of a pattern tending to show that they were committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.
  • Identification of individuals or groups responsible for the crimes alleged.
  • Evidence of the existence in Venezuela of genuine judicial investigations of the individuals identified.
  • The first hearings will be held on September 14 and 15 at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC. On Thursday 14th with representatives of Venezuelan civil society, and on Friday, 15th with members of the Venezuelan armed forces.

The information obtained through the public hearings and by the investigation team will be reviewed by an expert panel by October 30, 2017, which will evaluate the material to determine whether it has sufficient merit for the Secretary General to refer it to the ICC.

Reference: S-027/17