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Venezuela request to defer ICC Prosecutor Investigation

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ICC Prosecutor, Mr Karim A.A. Khan QC, notifies Pre-Trial Chamber I of a request from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to defer his investigation under article 18(2) of the Rome Statute and confirms intention to apply for authority to resume investigations

On 16 April 2022, I received a request from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (“Venezuela”) to defer my Office’s investigations with respect to the Situation in Venezuela I, in favour of the actions carried out by the national authorities of Venezuela. Specifically, Venezuela has triggered the procedure under article 18 of the Rome Statute whereby a State may inform the Court that it is investigating or has investigated its nationals or others within its jurisdiction with respect to criminal acts which may constitute crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, and may formally request that the ICC Prosecutor defer to the State’s investigation of those persons. The Statute requires that I either accept the deferral request or that I make an application to the Pre-Trial Chamber requesting authorisation to resume my own investigations.  

I have yesterday notified Venezuela’s deferral request to the Pre-Trial Chamber, as well as my intention to apply, as soon as possible, for authority to resume my investigations. In my notification I communicated this determination because, having reviewed the basis of the deferral request, I have concluded that no new information had been submitted that would warrant a revision of my earlier complementarity assessment that relevant potential cases that would arise from an investigation into the situation would be admissible.   

It will be for the Pre-Trial Chamber to decide on the procedure to be followed once I have submitted my application to proceed with the investigation, including any responses from Venezuela, as well as relevant observations by victims, their legal representatives, and other interested parties.  

Pending a ruling from the Pre-Trial Chamber on my application, my Office may also seek authority to execute specific investigative measures pursuant to article 18(6), where necessary.

I wish to recall that the effective implementation of the Rome Statute is a responsibility shared between the ICC and State Parties to the Rome Statute, such as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.  Since taking office, I have been clear that the meaningful realisation of the vision set out in the Statute can only be achieved by deepening cooperation and by finding common ground wherever possible, even in complex and challenging circumstances. Reflecting that view, during my engagement with the Venezuelan authorities I have demonstrated  my willingness to cooperate with the national authorities in their efforts to seek justice, while also making it clear that I will not hesitate to move forward when I believe the provisions of the Rome Statute are satisfied.  It is on the basis of this two-track approach that I announced the opening of my investigation during my first visit to Caracas in 3 November 2021 while simultaneously concluding a Memorandum of understanding with Venezuela regarding the promotion of cooperation and complementarity.

While the Venezuelan authorities did not agree with my decision to open an investigation, I considered it to their credit that they nevertheless sought to engage with my Office so as to develop stronger cooperation and to identify ways in which we may be able to support domestic accountability processes.  In this respect, I welcome the willingness of Venezuela to continue cooperating with the OTP notwithstanding its request that I defer my investigation.  In the same spirit, I will also continue working with Venezuela in order to advance implementation of all aspects of the Memorandum of Understanding while clearly meeting the statutory obligations of my Office with respect to our independent investigations.

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