Information for victims
Following the ICC Prosecutor’s request to resume the investigation into the Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela I (“Office of the Prosecutor/OTP Request” and “Venezuela I Situation”) pursuant to Article 18(2) of the Statute, on 18 November 2022, the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I (“Judges” or “Chamber”) ordered the Registry’s Victims Participation and Reparations Section (“VPRS”) to collect victims’ views and concerns on the potential resumption of an investigation and to transmit these views and concerns to the Chamber, together with a consolidated final report (“VPRS Report”) thereon. The Chamber set the deadline of 20 April 2023 for the transmission of the victim’s observations and the VPRS Report.
How many victims participated in the Article 18(2) proceedings?
The VPRS received and transmitted to the Chamber the views and concerns of approximately 8,900 victims1, 630 families and 2 organizations, presented in 1,875 submissions (1,746 standard consultation forms that VPRS had made available for this purpose, 5 videos2 and 124 emails or other written documents). The VPRS also received other videos submitted by victims in support of views and concerns already expressed in a written format; these videos were registered as supplementary information.
Family members of the victims - including wives, husbands, partners, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers, as well as guardians and care givers - presented their views and concerns. The victims who participated in the process also included human rights defenders; social and environmental activists; university students, professors and supporting staff; pensioners; journalists, media, bloggers and social media users; landowners, farms and businesses; as well as workers in the humanitarian, health, and public sectors; including judges, prosecutors, lawyers, former police and military personnel, etc.
Victims’ views and concerns addressed all the alleged crimes against humanity listed in the 2018 States Parties Referral of the Venezuela I Situation.3 Notably, victims described in their submissions the crimes of murder, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, other inhumane acts, rape and/or other forms of sexual violence, enforced disappearance, forced displacement, persecution on political grounds and other human rights violations. They reported having suffered physical, psychological, material, and social harm, as well as substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, affecting them in their individual, family, group and community life.
Where can the VPRS Report be found and what information does it include?
The public version of the VPRS Report has been published on the ICC Website and can be found here.
The report consists of three parts. The first part offers an overview of the Article 18(2) process and it also outlines the methodology used and the challenges encountered. The second part provides details of the victims’ views submitted to the VPRS on specific forms that had been disseminated for the process, videos and other written documents; the report provides some details on type, numbers and content of the communications received. The third part is based on quotes extracted from the forms, videos and other written documents received and it displays the victims’ views and concerns as they were communicated to the Registry in the present process.
What are the victims’ observations with respect to the OTP Request?
- In their views and concerns regarding the OTP Request, the victims expressed that:
- An investigation by an impartial international court is urgently needed because the domestic proceedings are not genuine;
- Judicial reform measures adopted in Venezuela are limited and fail to address the lack of genuine proceedings;
- The ICC must bring perpetrators to justice since in Venezuela those most responsible for the commission of crimes are being shielded from criminal responsibility;
- The ICC investigation is seen as a unique opportunity for victims’ voices to be heard, to find out the truth about what happened to the victims, to end impunity and to prevent future crimes;
- With respect to the scope of the investigation, in addition to the crimes specifically mentioned in the OTP Request (i.e. imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape and/or other forms of sexual violence, enforced disappearance and persecution on political grounds), a large number of cases of murder and forced displacement were narrated in the victims’ submissions;
- The cases of alleged murders reported by victims included killings in the context of anti-Government demonstrations, extrajudicial killings, and killings in the context of detention, and resulting, most often from excessive torture, bad conditions of detention or denial of medical treatment;
- When victims’ submissions addressed forced displacement, the main reasons invoked by victims for having to leave their homes were the humanitarian crisis and political persecution; examples provided are: victims being fired and unable to exercise their profession, effectively losing their livelihood; victims being unlawfully detained and placed under precautionary measures after detention; victims being stripped of their citizenship and/or identity documents; victims being evicted from their homes; and victims being denied access to social benefits, medical treatment, etc. Furthermore, a large number of victims claimed that Venezuela’s refusal to pay retirement pensions to real or perceived Government opponents currently residing in and outside Venezuela, as well as derisory sums paid to the rest of the retired population, amounts to crimes against humanity that victims ask the ICC Prosecutor to investigate;
- Torture and sexual and gender-based crimes were also reported by many victims.
What are the victim’s additional views and concerns?
- A large majority of victims’ submissions received raised security concerns for either the victims, their family members, the individuals or organizations assisting victims, the lawyers, etc., irrespective of whether they currently reside in Venezuela or elsewhere. Fear of retaliation was consistently mentioned by the victims. Additionally, some of the most frequent requests from victims were to keep their identity confidential.
- Victims requested expeditious and transparent proceedings. They also asked the ICC to conduct outreach activities in and outside Venezuela and to continue regular communications (oral and in writing) with victims, including in face-to-face meetings and the dissemination of information in Spanish. Lastly, victims requested that an ICC Office be opened in Caracas to help with facilitating genuine victim participation in potential future judicial proceedings, including reparations.
What if a victim feels at risk as a result of presenting views and concerns to the Chamber?
The ICC manages its contacts with victims in a manner aimed at limiting risks to victims or others, and will handle information received from victims with strict confidentiality. This means, for example, that in the proceedings related to Article 18(2), the VPRS registers the information (applications, videos, emails, etc.) provided by victims in a secure database to which only authorized staff of the Registry have access. Furthermore, this information is only transmitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber; no other entity will be given access to it. The OTP and the Government of Venezuela will not have access to any forms, videos, and other documents submitted by or on behalf of victims to VPRS. The views and concerns of victims are not considered evidence.
The public version of the VPRS Report does not contain any identifying information of victims nor of any other person or organization who participated in the Article 18(2) process.
When will the acknowledgment of receipts be issued?
Due to the large volume of victims’ observations received, the VPRS has not yet issued acknowledgments of receipt for all applications (forms, videos, emails) submitted by victims. Acknowledgements of receipt will be issued shortly where it can be done in a secure manner.
What are the next steps?
The Chamber has not yet ruled on a potential resumption of the investigation. The Chamber will issue a decision after carefully considering and evaluating all observations received from the Office of the Prosecutor, the Government of Venezuela and the victims. Once the Judges issue their decision, it will be placed on the website of the ICC. It can take a number of months before the decision is issued.
For any information relating to the Venezuela I situation and the rights of victims before the ICC, victims can contact the VPRS at [email protected].
Can victims still send their views and concerns to the ICC?
The period to collect victims’ views and concerns for the purpose of the current Article 18(2) process has ended on 7 March 2023. The deadline to transmit victims’ observations to the Chamber and submit the VPRS Report was on 20 April 2023; therefore, it is no longer possible to include victims’ views and concerns which are received after the deadline. However, all submissions received from victims after the deadline are being registered by the VPRS. If and when there are developments in the proceedings, the VPRS will contact all victims who reached out to it in the Article 18(2) proceedings, security providing.
1 The victim’s observations transmitted to the Chamber were submitted by individuals identifying as men, women or outside the binary gender spectrum; of all ages, including children, teenagers, young adults and elderly people; of different ethnic and national origins; of different religions; with certain health conditions; people with disabilities; from a full spectrum of social and economic backgrounds; etc.
2 The 5 videos mentioned are those that were sent without a written document, and that contained enough information to be registered as a participation form.
3 States Parties Referral of a situation to the ICC Prosecutor, 26 September 2018, https://www.icc-cpi.int/sites/default/files/itemsDocuments/180925-otp-referral-venezuela_ENG.pdf, page 3.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE VENEZUELA I SITUATION
What is the status and scope of the ICC Prosecutor’s intended investigation into the Venezuela I Situation?
On 3 November 2021, the ICC Prosecutor opened the investigation into the Venezuela I Situation further to a referral submitted by a group of States Parties on 27 September 2018. The overall scope of the Venezuela I Situation and of the Prosecutor’s intended investigation encompasses any conduct amounting to crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC that are alleged to have been committed in Venezuela since 12 February 2014. The Prosecutor specifically focuses on crimes against humanity of imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty pursuant to article 7(1)(e); torture pursuant to article 7(1)(f); rape and/or other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity pursuant to article 7(1)(g); and persecution on political grounds against persons held in detention pursuant to article 7(1)(h) allegedly committed by members of the State security forces, civilian authorities and pro-government individuals (so-called colectivos), since at least April 2017.
In the OTP Request, the Prosecutor focuses its analysis on the crimes against humanity of imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty pursuant to article 7(1)(e); torture pursuant to article 7(1)(f); rape and/or other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity pursuant to article 7(1)(g); and persecution on political grounds against persons held in detention pursuant to article 7(1)(h) allegedly committed, since at least April 2017, by members of the State security forces, civilian authorities and pro-government individuals (colectivos).
Who is considered a “victim” before the ICC?
According to rule 85 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the ICC, victims are persons who have suffered harm – to themselves or to their close family members – as a result of any crime within the ICC’s jurisdiction. This harm can include physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of fundamental rights.
Victims may also include organisations and institutions when their property dedicated to certain purposes (religion, education, art or science or charitable and humanitarian purposes, or historic monuments and hospitals) is harmed as a result of a crime in the ICC’s jurisdiction.
All victims of crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela since 12 February 2014 were invited to submit their views and concerns on the Prosecutor’s Request, not only the victims who have suffered harm as a result of the crimes specifically mentioned in the Prosecutor’s Request.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON THE ICC
The ICC’s Structure
The ICC is composed of four organs: (i) the Presidency; (ii) Chambers (Appeals Division, Trial Division, Pre-Trial Division); (iii) the Office of the Prosecutor; and (iv) the Registry. The Office of the Prosecutor acts independently as a separate organ. The Registry is composed of many sections, including, of particular interest for victims: the Victims Participation and Reparation Section, the Office of Public Counsel for Victims and the Victims and Witnesses Unit.
The ICC’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 ICC 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 or political parties. It can only investigate and prosecute natural persons of 18 years of age or above. Its mandate is to investigate and, where warranted, prosecute individuals for their alleged individual criminal responsibility for mass crimes which fall under the ICC jurisdiction.
The Principle of Complementarity
The principle of complementarity is one of the main pillars for the ICC’s operations. If a State which has jurisdiction over the situation/case investigates, prosecutes and tries the same person for substantially the same conduct, then the ICC shall defer to the domestic judicial authorities, provided that the State is not unwilling and/or unable to genuinely carry out the proceedings.
The ICC does not have police or executive forces to implement its decisions and orders (such as a warrant of arrest). The ICC is dependent on its States Parties’ full cooperation. The ICC may also invite any State not party to the Rome Statute or any other relevant entity to cooperate and provide assistance.
For further general information on the structure and functioning of the ICC, as well as on the crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC, please click here.