ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro signed a “Letter of Consent” to facilitate co-operation and mutual assistance to promote accountability for atrocities, “the court said.
Maduro’s government has been in a preliminary hearing at the ICC since February 2018. The court is determining whether Venezuela deserves a trial for alleged crimes against humanity.
The United Nations has accused Venezuelan security forces of using excessive force during protests against Maduro’s government and arbitrarily detaining thousands of people in a matter of months.
More than 120 people have died in protest-related incidents, according to the UN Office for Human Rights, which bases its estimates on interviews with protesters and witnesses.
CNN could not independently confirm these claims.
“The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has completed a preliminary examination of the situation in Venezuela,” the letter said, “and has decided it is appropriate to launch an investigation to establish the truth in accordance with the Roman statue.”
Venezuela “considers that allegations in the country should be investigated by existing national institutions created for this purpose”, but “despite differences in views on this issue, the parties remain committed to active cooperation and support efforts to continue the principle of complementarity,” still writes.
“I am fully aware of the turning points that exist in Venezuela, the geopolitical divisions that exist, we are not political, we are guided by the principles of legality and the rule of law,” Khan said after signing the letter of consent.
Even after signing the letter on Wednesday, Maduro said: “The doors of Venezuela are open because we want the truth, because we want justice, because we want to improve, because Venezuela guarantees justice.”
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been backed by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president, welcomed the court’s move.
“The formal opening of an investigation into crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court confirms the right to a right that has been denied in Venezuela for victims and their families,” Guaidó said on his official Twitter account on Wednesday.
Despite broad international support for Guaid, Maduro has managed to retain power amid a failing economy and U.S.-backed efforts to remove him from power through coordinated Western sanctions.
“This decision – the first in Latin American history – gives hope to the rights of hundreds of victims of the brutal repression of the Maduro regime,” José Miguel Vivanco, U.S. director at Human Rights Watch, wrote on his official Twitter account on Wednesday.