NEW YORK (December 17, 2020) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) welcomes the report by the Office of the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor released on Monday, December 14, which concludes that there is “reasonable basis” to believe the Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro had committed crimes against humanity, thus opening the door to a full investigation in the coming months.
In September, UN investigators determined that the Venezuelan government had committed systematic human rights violations that amounted to crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court (ICC) echoed these findings in its report of December 14, identifying civilian and military authorities, as well as paramilitary groups aligned with the regime, as the alleged perpetrators of a series of gross human rights abuses that include, among others, “torture, rape […], and politically motivated persecutions.”
“The announcement made yesterday by the ICC’s chief prosecutor is great news for the Venezuelan people and the future of democracy there. This will open the doors for a full investigation in the coming months, a rare sight for a dictatorship that is currently clinging on to power,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Sadly and shamefully, the democratic world, and in particular Venezuela’s neighbors, have failed to put sufficient pressure on the Venezuelan government as it dismantled democratic institutions for years, and even continued to look away as human rights abuses piled on. It is long past due for the regime to face the consequences of their many crimes, and for the Venezuelan people to receive redress for what they have suffered.”
While most of the abuses identified by the UN and referenced by the ICC’s report took place after mass protests broke out against the regime of Nicolas Maduro in 2017, the Venezuelan dictatorship had already been one of the worst human rights offenders in Latin America for years. Imprisonment of political opponents, independent judges, and peaceful protesters had become commonplace even before Maduro’s rise to power.
The autocratic government of Venezuela is facing increased pressure due to its gross human rights violations and is responsible for the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere in decades. In the past five years, a catastrophic economic crisis and shortages of basic goods and medicine have forced more than five million Venezuelans to flee the country, often under strenuous conditions.
Just last week, at least twenty people drowned after their crowded boat sank trying to cross the Gulf of Paria from Venezuela to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. To date, more than 100 people have died attempting to escape Venezuela for the Carribean nation by sea.
“The tragedy we have just witnessed in the Gulf of Paria serves as a grim reminder of the dire conditions Venezuelans are facing in their country and the lengths they are willing to go to escape. The ICC’s prosecution is an important step, but justice for the Venezuelan people will only be possible with a categorical transition to democracy,” said Halvorssen.
The Human Rights Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. For further comment, please contact [email protected]