ICC Venezuela II – Examination and Implications of Venezuela’s Referral to the ICC: Crimes Against Humanity and Unilateral Coercive Measure

In a pivotal development on 13 February 2020, the International Criminal Court (ICC) received a referral from the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, marking a significant moment in the realm of international law and justice. Venezuela, as a State Party to the Rome Statute, exercised its prerogatives by calling upon the ICC Prosecutor to initiate an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity within its territory. This request aims to ascertain the responsibility for crimes purportedly committed as a result of coercive measures imposed by the United States government against Venezuela since at least 2014.

This referral, the second concerning Venezuela received by the Office of the Prosecutor, is supported by documents detailing the circumstances under which these alleged crimes occurred. This action follows a previous referral in 2018 by several States Parties to the Rome Statute and an initial preliminary examination opened by the Prosecutor in February 2018 focusing on crimes linked to demonstrations and political unrest since February 2014.

It’s crucial to note that a State Party referral does not automatically trigger an investigation. The Prosecutor must first determine if the situation meets the statutory criteria for an investigation, a process that does not require Pre-Trial Chamber authorization due to the referral.

Under Article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor is tasked with considering issues of jurisdiction, admissibility, and the interests of justice. This comprehensive evaluation is consistent across all situations, regardless of the preliminary examination’s initiation method. It underscores the Office’s commitment to independently and impartially analyzing all available information.

This recent referral from Venezuela represents the tenth received by the Prosecutor’s Office since the Rome Statute’s inception in 2002, joining a list of referrals from diverse governments and the United Nations Security Council. It underscores the global commitment to upholding international law and the principles enshrined in the Rome Statute, offering a new avenue for justice and accountability.





Hennebel Avocats specializes in complex and global legal litigation in public international law, international human rights law, and international and transnational criminal law


International Criminal Court (ICC) – Rome Statute – Venezuela’s Referral – Crimes Against Humanity – Unilateral Coercive Measures – State Parties – Article 14(1) of the Rome Statute – ICC Prosecutor – Preliminary Examination – Jurisdiction – Admissibility – Interests of Justice – Independent and Impartial Assessment – State Party Prerogatives – State Referrals – United Nations Security Council – International Coercion – Office of the Prosecutor’s Policy on Preliminary Examinations – ICC’s Exercise of Jurisdiction – Observations by Competent National Authorities – International Responsibility

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