Information for victims

Information for victims

Information for victims

Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela I

General Information on the International Criminal Court (“ICC”)

The ICC is a permanent international criminal court that allows for the victims’ participation in judicial proceedings, if they had suffered personal harm as a result of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, and when the Judges consider it appropriate. Victims before the ICC have the right to legal representation, including common legal representatives, and may receive legal aid if needed. Moreover, victims have the right to reparations, as appropriate, only in cases with convictions.

1. The Court’s Jurisdiction

The general mission of the ICC is to investigate and, where warranted, prosecute individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. The Court is participating in a global fight to end impunity, and through international criminal justice, the ICC aims to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes and to help prevent these crimes from happening again.

The ICC does not prosecute States, Governments, organisations or political parties. It can only investigate and prosecute individuals, who were 18 years of age or above at the time of the commission of the alleged crimes. For further general information on the structure and functioning of the Court and on the crimes within its jurisdiction, please click here.

2. Who is considered a “victim” before the ICC?

A victim before the ICC is any person that suffered harm as a result of crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction, including direct and indirect victims. Direct victims before the ICC are individuals who personally suffered harm, as a result of crimes within the Court's jurisdiction. Indirect victims are those who suffered harm due to their relationship with direct victims, such as family members, dependents, caretakers, or individuals who experience harm by assisting or because they attempted to prevent the commission of a crime.

Harm can include physical injury, emotional suffering, economic loss, social harm (such as stigmatisation) or substantial impairment of fundamental rights (for example, for those who were prevented from going to school).

Victims may also include organisations and institutions, when their property or objects dedicated to certain purposes (religion, education, art or science or charitable and humanitarian purposes), or when historic monuments, hospitals and other places were directly harmed as a result of a crime in the ICC’s jurisdiction.

3. What are the stages of the ICC proceedings?

The purpose of criminal proceedings before the ICC is to ensure that allegations of most serious crimes without the ICC jurisdiction are investigated, prosecuted, and, if the accused is proven guilty, penalised in accordance with the Rome Statute. ICC proceedings include several stages:

  • Preliminary Examination Stage: During this stage the ICC Prosecutor (and his/her Office) conducts an initial assessment to determine whether to start the investigation in a particular situation. For his/her determination, the Prosecutor assesses whether there is enough evidence that crimes within the court's jurisdiction may have been committed, whether there are genuine national proceedings covering such crimes, and whether opening an investigation by his office would serve the interest of justice and of the victims.

  • Investigation Stage: This stage is initiated when the Prosecutor decides to formally open an investigation into a situation following the preliminary examination, in order to collect evidence, find out what crimes have been committed and identify potential suspects who may be responsible. As a result of the investigation, the Prosecutor may submit to the Pre-Trial Chamber request/s to confirm warrants of arrests.

  • Pre‐Trial Stage: This is the stage en el que la Corte se pronuncia sobre todas las cuestiones antes del inicio de un juicio contra un determinado acusado. Here the Court determines whether or not to issue a warrant of arrest, or an order to appear before the Pre-Trial Chamber, against one or several individual suspects. Once a person has been arrested and brought before the judges of the Chamber, or once this person has surrendered to the ICC, the Court determines whether or not to confirm partially or entirely the charges put forward by the Prosecutor.

  • Trial Stage: This stage comprises the trial of individuals accused of having committed crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. During the Trial stage, the Prosecution and the Defence are parties to the proceedings, in which the Prosecution has to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. At the end of this stage, the Trial Chamber decides whether the accused is either found guilty and sentenced, or acquitted of the crime(s), if based on the evidence brought forward the judges are not convinced beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused.

  • Appeals Stage: If one of the parties, or both of them, challenges the trial's outcome, a final judgment would be given during the Appeal’s stage. It is possible for a conviction or an acquittal issued by the Trial Chamber to be reversed by the Appeals Chamber. The Appeals Chamber may also change the sentencing order. For instance, the Appeals Chamber’s judges may determine that the Trial Chamber’s judges misapplied the law or made substantial factual errors.

  • Reparations Stage: In the event of a conviction, the Trial Chamber will issue an order for reparations to victims against the convicted person. If the convicted person does not have any means to afford reparations (“indigent”), the Trust Fund for Victims may be requested to complement the order for reparations so that the victims may receive some form of redress. During this stage, depending on the type of reparations ordered (individual or collective or both), the victims may be called to provide some proof to the Chamber that they are legitimate beneficiaries of reparations. Even if indigent at the time of conviction, the convicted person may be asked to reimburse the Trust Fund for Victims should that person become non-indigent at any later stage in his life.

It is important to consider that international criminal proceedings take time, usually several years, before reaching the final stage.

4. What is the difference between a situation and a case?

a) Situation stage: Every proceeding before the ICC begins with a situation that outlines the general geographic and temporal frame in which potential investigations and cases against individuals may evolve.

b) Case stage: Once a potential suspect has been identified, a warrant of arrest (or a summons to appear) is issued, and the individual has been arrested or agreed to surrender voluntarily, a specific case will proceed regarding this individual. The case proceedings will include a pre‐trial phase (in which the Court will decide which specific charges may proceed to trial), a trial, and possibly an appeal and a reparations phase.

5. What is the difference between a victim of a situation and a victim of a case?

a) Situation stage:  Victims’ engagement with the Court may vary considerably depending on the stage of the proceedings. During the preliminary examination stage, the ICC Prosecutor is still considering whether or not to launch an investigation. There are not yet any arrest warrants or charges alleged against specific individual suspects. Only if the Prosecutor declares his intention to commence an investigation under Article 15 (3) of the Statute can victims provide their views and concerns regarding such an investigation through so-called ‘representations’ to the Court, unless the Judges decide otherwise to protect the integrity of the investigation or the life and well-being of victims and witnesses. Following the preliminary examination stage and when an investigation into a situation has commenced, victims’ personal interests may be affected by decisions taken during the Prosecution’s investigation, which may give rise to procedural rights for victims. This may include, for example, the Prosecutor’s decision to discontinue an investigation. In such instances, the judges would decide whether and when the victims would be permitted to make observations in the proceedings. In general, during the Prosecution’s investigation into a situation, there are few instances when the judges might consider it appropriate for victims to make observations or otherwise engage with the Court.

b) Case stage: Once arrest warrants or summonses to appear are issued, it will be possible to identify victims in those cases. The victims of a particular case are those who suffered personal harm as a result of the particular crimes with which the suspect or accused is charged.

6. What is the role of the Victim Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS)?

The Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS) is a neutral section within the ICC’s Registry, and its mandate is to assist victims before the ICC. The VPRS informs victims of their rights before the ICC, assists them in filling in their applications for participation in the proceedings or for reparations, and keeps the Judges informed. It also assists victims in organising their legal representation. The VPRS can be contacted at [email protected] .

7. What is the role of the Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV)?

The OPCV provides support and assistance to victims and legal representatives of victims, including, where appropriate, legal research, advice and appearing before a Chamber regarding specific issues whenever authorised by the Judges to do so. It may also represent a group of victims in ICC proceedings if the Judges appoint them as the Common legal representatives of victims in these specific proceedings. The OPCV functions as an independent office. They do not receive instructions from anybody in relation to the conduct of the representation of victims. The OPCV can be contacted at: [email protected] .

The situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela I

8. Procedural history.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Venezuela) ratified the Rome Statute on 7 June 2000. On 27 September 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) received a referral from a group of States Parties to the Rome Statute, namely the Republic of Argentina, Canada, the Republic of Colombia, the Republic of Chile, the Republic of Paraguay, and the Republic of Peru, regarding the situation in Venezuela since 12 February 2014. On 3 November 2021, the OTP announced its decision to proceed with investigations in Venezuela.

On 21 April 2022, the OTP notified  Pre-Trial Chamber I that it received a request from Venezuela to defer its investigations in favour of the actions carried out by the national authorities of Venezuela, pursuant to Article 18(2) of the Rome Statute.

On 1 November 2022, the OTP requested the Pre-Trial Chamber to resume the investigation in this Situation. Pre-Trial Chamber I issued an “Order inviting observations and views and concerns of victims” on 18 November 2022, instructing the Victims Participation

and Reparations Section (“VPRS”) of the Registry to collect victims’ views or concerns on the OTP Request. The consultation phase ended on 21 March 2023. On 27 June 2023, Pre-Trial Chamber I authorised the ICC Prosecution to resume its investigation into the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela I, pursuant to Article 18(2) of the Statute.

The Registry submitted a comprehensive report on the victims’ views and concerns received until 12 January 2023 in the Article 18(2) proceedings on 19 January 2023, with its assessment of the forms and a detailed explanation of the assessment criteria applied. On 20 February 2023, the Registry submitted its second report on victims’ views and concerns received in the Article 18(2) proceedings, with its assessment of the victims’ forms and a detailed explanation of the assessment criteria applied.

On 3 July 2023, Venezuela submitted its notice of appeal against the Pre-Trial Chamber’s Article 18(2) Decision. On 14 August 2023, Venezuela filed its appeal brief.

On 21 July 2023, the Appeals Chamber granted a request of the OPCV and invited it to submit written observations on Venezuela’s appeal brief in relation to the general interests of victims. On 24 August 2023, the Appeals Chamber granted, in part, the victims’ requests by allowing victims to make representations, with the assistance of their legal representatives if they so wish, and instructed the VPRS to collect and transmit to the Appeals Chamber representations from any interested victim and victims group and submit a report thereon.

On 13 September 2023, the Prosecutor filed his response to Venezuela’s appeal brief, and the OPCV submitted its observations. On 12 October 2023, the Appeals Chamber published its decision to convene a hearing for 7 and 8 November 2023, on the appeal of Venezuela against the "Decision authorising the resumption of the investigation in accordance with Article 18(2) of the Statute" of Pre-Trial Chamber I. The hearing on November 7 and 8 took place within the framework of the Venezuelan government's appeal on whether or not the Prosecutor should continue the investigation into crimes against humanity in Venezuela. The hearing addressed topics previously defined by the Chamber in the “Instructions on the conduct of the hearing”, where the Chamber authorised the representatives of the OTP, the Government of Venezuela, and the OPCV to participate. During the public hearing on 1 March 2024, the Appeals Chamber delivered its judgment in the appeal of Venezuela against Pre-Trial Chamber I’s decision of 27 June 2023. During the hearing, the Appeals Chamber rejected all six grounds of appeal submitted by Venezuela unanimously and confirmed the “Decision authorising the resumption of the investigation”.

9. What is the scope of the investigation in the Venezuela I situation?

On 27 September 2018, the OTP received a referral from a group of States Parties to the Rome Statute regarding the situation in Venezuela since 12 February 2014 for the following crimes: murder, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty; torture; rape and other forms of sexual violence; persecution of an identifiable group or collectively on political grounds and enforced disappearance of persons, committed by State authorities on the territory of Venezuela. The Prosecution has decided to focus its investigation on a particular sub-set of crimes within the broader scope of the Venezuela situation that allegedly occurred within a more focused period, namely, occurring at least since April 2017.[1]

[1] Crimes against humanity of deprivation of liberty or other serious deprivation of physical liberty in accordance with Article 7(1)(e); torture pursuant to Article 7(1)(f); rape and/or other forms of sexual violence of comparable severity in accordance with article 7(1)(g); and politically motivated persecution against persons detained pursuant to Article 7(1)(h), which were committed since at least April 2017, by members of the State security forces, civil authorities and pro-government persons (or groups called “collectives”).

The scope of the OTP’s investigation could change in future proceedings during a pre-trial phase (in which the Court decides which specific charges will proceed to trial). Once arrest warrants or summonses to appear are issued, it will be possible to identify victims that fall within the scope of those specific cases. The victims of a particular case are those victims who suffered personal harm as a result of the particular crimes with which the suspect or accused is charged.

10. How can the victims interact with the ICC?

Participation is possible at all stages of proceedings that are considered appropriate by the Judges. At the current investigation stage, victims can engage with the Court in several ways:

  • Any individual, group or State can send information to the OTP regarding any alleged crimes in the Venezuela I situation falling under the jurisdiction of the Court. Any person can share relevant information for the purposes of the investigation on the Venezuela I situation through the designated portal:
  • Victims can address the Court already during the investigation stage. They can submit applications to participate in potential future judicial proceedings, and to apply for potential future reparations in case of a conviction. All victim applications for participation and/or reparations received by the VPRS will be kept safe in the VPRS confidential database. These applications would be processed and transmitted to the Judges in due course, once relevant case proceedings are initiated;
  • Moreover, in the future, if there is a trial, a victim may testify before the ICC if he or she is called as a witness for the Prosecution, the Defence, or the victims’ Common Legal Representative.

11. What if a victim feels at risk due to her/his/their interaction with the ICC?

The security of victims and those assisting them comes first. Victims should not take any risk, and they should not mention publicly their interaction with the ICC, as confidentiality and discretion are the best ways to protect victims during the proceedings. The ICC manages its contacts with victims in a manner that minimises the risks to them or to others, and handles information received from victims with strict confidentiality. This means, for example, that the VPRS registers the information (applications, videos, emails, etc.) provided by victims in a secure database to which only authorised staff of the Registry have access. Furthermore, this information is only transmitted to the Chambers; no other entity will be given access to it. The OTP and the Government of Venezuela will not be granted access to any forms, videos, and other documents submitted by or on behalf of victims to the VPRS, unless ordered otherwise by the Judges.

The public version of the VPRS Reports does not contain any identifying information of victims or of any other person or organisation who participated in the proceedings.

For any questions or assistance, please contact the VPRS at [email protected] .

12. For more information regarding the VPRS and victims’ rights, the VPRS booklet can be found here: