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OAS General Secretariat Report Reaffirms Crimes against Humanity in Venezuela

  December 2, 2020

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court criticized for failing to open an investigation, despite examining the situation for almost three years

The Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro and OAS Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Jared Genser today released a report that reaffirms that there is a reasonable basis to conclude the regime of Nicolás Maduro has been committing crimes against humanity in Venezuela since February 12, 2014 and condemns the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for inaction in the face of these crimes. 

The 145-page report, entitled “Fostering Impunity: The Impact of the Failure of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to Open an Investigation Into the Possible Commission of Crimes Against Humanity in Venezuela” expands on the report by the 2018 OAS Panel of Independent Experts, which concluded there was a reasonable basis to believe crimes against humanity were being committed in Venezuela.

The new document notes that, since the publication of the 2018 report, the crimes against humanity in Venezuela have  increased in scale, scope, and severity as the country faces a humanitarian crisis caused by unprecedented political and economic turmoil along with food and medical shortages.  Drawing on the work of the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, NGOs, independent scholars and other credible sources, the new report paints a vivid portrait of a Venezuela wracked by state-sponsored violence and in the throes of a humanitarian disaster.

Among other findings, the report:

  • Identifies 18,093 extrajudicial executions carried out by state security forces or colectivos since 2014.
  • Identifies 15,501 cases of arbitrary detention or other instances of severe deprivation of liberty since 2014.
  • Identifies that tens of millions of people have suffered or been subjected to serious injury due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis created by the regime. This includes reports, such as by the United Nations, which found 7 million people in need and more than 100,000 children under age 5 affected by severe acute malnutrition.  One NGO with a strong local presence reported that 52 of 100 children served have nutritional deficits and 24 percent of pregnant women were malnourished.  In major cities, shortages of essential drugs have ranged from 60 to 100 percent.  And with low vaccination rates and limited drugs, there have been outbreaks of measles and diphtheria and at least 400,000 cases of malaria, the highest in Latin America, with almost 1,000 reportedly dead because of a lack of anti-malaria medication.
  • Identifies 724 instances of enforced disappearance in 2018 and 2019.
  • Identifies 653 documented cases of torture since 2014.
  • Identifies that rape and sexual violence have been weaponized by the regime, including as a method of torture.
  • Highlights the failure of the Prosecutor of the ICC to conduct her preliminary examination expeditiously and to open an investigation despite overwhelming evidence of crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction.
  • Recommends the Prosecutor proceed as rapidly as possible to open an investigation into the situation in Venezuela and, in the meantime, request immediate, full, and open access to Venezuela, issue a detailed public statement about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, and highlight the true scope and severity of the situation in Venezuela in her forthcoming “2020 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities.”

The report also presents alleged crimes that were not part of the 2018 report, including intentionally committed “inhumane acts” that have resulted in great suffering or death. These include actions by the Maduro regime that have facilitated and prolonged Venezuela’s worsening humanitarian disaster.

Government institutions, including the security forces and the Judiciary, have been used as weapons against its citizens. For the people of Venezuela, the rule of law domestically no longer exists. For members of the regime, the State empowers them to operate with total impunity. The pursuit of international justice is the only recourse left.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, said “the Venezuelan regime has been allowed to operate with impunity. Every day of inaction from the international community increases the suffering of the Venezuela people. We call on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to take action and show the world that crimes against humanity will not go unpunished.”

“Our report brings to life the extraordinary suffering of the people of Venezuela, being inflicted on them by Nicolás Maduro and his regime.  The only reasonable conclusion to reach from examining the scale and breadth of human rights abuses, such as extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, and the imposition of conditions of life designed to cause great suffering or death, is that these actions constitute crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court,said Jared Genser, OAS Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect.  It is therefore as inexplicable as it is shocking that after almost three years examining the situation, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has still failed to even open an investigation into the alleged crimes,” he added.

Despite the drastic deterioration of Venezuela’s national stability and the serious and ongoing alleged crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court has taken no substantive action to hold the perpetrators accountable.  Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda began investigating the Venezuela case in February 2018 and, in the nearly three years since, has only completed two of four stages of her “preliminary examination.”  Instead, contrary to her Office’s stated goals of promoting prevention, deterrence, and putting perpetrators on notice, she has failed to act as she has repeatedly done in other cases. As a result, the regime has been emboldened to commit more crimes, in the belief it can act with impunity.

The report includes:

  • A detailed Executive Summary.
  • An up-to-date account of the political crisis in Venezuela.
  • A summary and legal analysis of the Prosecutor’s preliminary examination of the situation in Venezuela.
  • An in-depth assessment of the major multilateral investigations into the situation in Venezuela.
  • Detailed analyses of individual alleged crimes against humanity in Venezuela, including murder, torture, imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearances, rape/sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts.
  • An examination of the criminal responsibility of Maduro regime officials.

“Crimes Against Humanity” are defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, as the crimes specified there on the condition that they were “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack.”

Venezuela signed and ratified the Rome Statute and, as a result, the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over any crimes committed in the territory of Venezuela or by Venezuelan nationals since July 1, 2002.

Jared Genser is the OAS Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, a pro bono appointment he has held since October 2020.  Secretary General Almagro commissioned Mr. Genser to publish this report on a pro bono basis in 2019, prior to his appointment as Special Adviser.  The publishing of this report now falls within the scope of his new responsibilities because one important component of the commitment of states to the responsibility to protect is the promotion of deterrence and the need for justice and accountability for past crimes.

More information available in this fact sheet

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Reference: E-122/20