March 29, 2020

Fatou Bensouda, on the referral by Venezuela

Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, on the referral by Venezuela regarding the situation in its own territory.

On 13 February 2020, I received a referral from the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (“Venezuela”) regarding the situation in its own territory, in accordance with its prerogatives as a State Party to the Rome Statute (the “Statute”).

Pursuant to article 14(1) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”), the referring State requests the Prosecutor to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity allegedly committed on the territory of Venezuela, with the view to determining whether one or more persons should be charged with the commission of such crimes.

In its referral, the Government of Venezuela states that crimes against humanity are committed “as a result of the application of unlawful coercive measures adopted unilaterally by the government of the United States of America against Venezuela, at least since the year 2014.” The referral is accompanied by a supporting document, which further specifies the relevant circumstances under which such crimes are alleged to have occurred. Pursuant to Regulation 45 of the Regulations of the Court, I have informed the ICC Presidency of this referral to enable the assignment of the situation to a Pre-Trial Chamber.

This is the second referral received by my Office concerning the situation in Venezuela. Previously, on 27 September 2018, a group of States Parties to the Rome Statute, namely the Argentine Republic, Canada, the Republic of Colombia, the Republic of Chile, the Republic of Paraguay and the Republic of Peru, made a referral regarding the situation in Venezuela, since 12 February 2014. This followed my earlier decision, of 8 February 2018, to open a preliminary examination into the situation in Venezuela to analyse alleged crimes in the context of demonstrations and related political unrest.

In my notification to the ICC Presidency, I have noted that the two referrals appear to overlap geographically and temporally and may therefore warrant assignment to the same Pre-Trial Chamber; but that this should not prejudice a later determination on whether the referred scope of the two situations is sufficiently linked to constitute a single situation.

A State Party referral does not automatically lead to the opening of an investigation. Should I, however, ultimately determine that the situation referred warrants an investigation in accordance with the statutory criteria, as a result of this referral, the Statute does not require the Prosecutor to seek authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court in order to proceed with an investigation. The receipt of a referral may expedite the process of opening an investigation only to the extent that judicial review of my decision would not be required under the Statute.

Specifically, under article 53 (1) of the Statute, as Prosecutor, I must consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice in making this determination. As noted in the Office’s Policy Paper on Preliminary Examinations, these factors are applied to all situations, irrespective of whether the preliminary examination was initiated on the basis of information on crimes submitted pursuant to article 15 of the Statute, by a referral from a State Party (or a group of States Parties) or the United Nations Security Council, or by a declaration accepting the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court, pursuant to article 12(3) of the Statute. In all circumstances, my Office independently evaluates and analyses the information available.

In the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate, my Office gives consideration to all submissions and views conveyed to it during the course of each preliminary examination, including any observation by the competent national authorities concerning any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level.

Referral submitted by the Government of Venezuela

This is the tenth referral received by my Office since the Rome Statute came into force on 1 July 2002. Previously, the Governments of Uganda (2004), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2004), the Central African Republic (2004 and 2014), Mali (2012), the Union of the Comoros (2013), the Gabonese Republic (2016), the State of Palestine (2018) and the Group of six States Parties (2018) have referred situations to my Office in accordance with their prerogatives as States Parties to the Statute.

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