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FACT SHEET: OAS General Secretariat Launches New Report Detailing Human Rights Violations in Venezuela and Impact of Inaction by ICC Prosecutor

  December 2, 2020

The report is available here


  • In his third report on the situation in Venezuela, published on July 19, 2017, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, stated that there was “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 constitute crimes against humanity and should be brought to the attention of the International Criminal Court for further consideration.
  • On May 29, 2018, the OAS Secretary General-appointed Panel of Independent International Experts released a report – based on testimonies from witnesses, testimonies from victims, victims’ families, and other interested parties, and written submissions from over 40 Venezuelan and international non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations – concluding that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela” dating back to at least February 12, 2014.
  • On September 26, 2018, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru jointly referred the situation in Venezuela to the International Criminal Court for investigation, under Article 14 of the Rome Statute.
  • On September 27, 2019, the UN Human Rights Council passed Resolution A/HRC/RES/42/25 establishing an independent fact-finding mission “to investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment since 2014 with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.”
  • On September 16, 2020, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela published its report finding “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in Venezuela”, affirming the findings of the 2018 OAS Report. The Fact-Finding Mission recommended that further international investigations into the human right crimes violations and crimes are necessary and that “the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court takes into consideration the needs of the victims of the crimes investigated by the Mission and those under its consideration to have justice served in a timely fashion”.
  • “Crimes against Humanity” are defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, as “specific crimes 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.
  • In April 2011, the International Criminal Court and the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States signed an exchange of letters establishing a Framework Cooperation Agreement focused on the promotion and dissemination of shared principles and values, as well as the exchange of information and documents on matters of common interest.
  • The process of examining the possible commission of crimes against humanity in Venezuela was explicitly designed to support the existing cooperation agreements between the General Secretariat of the OAS and the ICC and is conducted under the authority of the OAS Secretary General.


  • As a follow up to the 2018 Panel of Independent Experts, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro tasked Mr. Jared Genser with monitoring developments in Venezuela and facilitating – in an impartial and independent manner – 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. Since the 2018 Panel of Independent Experts report, significant work – by intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other credible sources – has been undertaken to document the drastic deterioration of the human rights landscape in Venezuela.  This report synthesizes, summarizes, and analyzes those findings to demonstrate the gravity and severity of the alleged crimes that have targeted millions of Venezuelans.
  • 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. On February 8, 2018, Ms. Bensouda announced that the ICC had opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Venezuela.  In September 2018, six state parties to the Rome Statute – Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru – made an unprecedented referral of the Venezuela case to the ICC.  In the Prosecutor’s own words, this referral was the “first referral submitted by a group of States Parties concerning a situation on the territory of another State Party.”  Yet, despite the extraordinary nature of the six-state referral to the Court, the Prosecutor’s “preliminary examination” is still ongoing after nearly three years.  In the absence of any form of accountability or justice by the ICC, the regime has been emboldened to commit more crimes, in the belief it can act with total impunity. 

The Report:

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.”


Reference: S-023/20