ICC judges reject Venezuela's appeal against human rights probe

Credit: REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

Adds response from Venezuela foreign minister in paragraph 5

THE HAGUE, March 1 (Reuters) - Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday rejected Venezuela's appeal against a decision to resume an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by government officials.

Last year, Caracas appealed a decision to resume the probe, arguing its prosecution should trigger the complementarity principle, where the court can only step in if a country is not already investigating the same suspected crimes.

On Friday, the appeals judges unanimously rejected all grounds of appeal and gave the green light for the ICC's prosecutor to resume his investigation into the abuses, which might qualify as crimes against humanity.

The Venezuelan government has accused political opponents of manipulating some incidents of human rights abuses under the rule of President Nicolas Maduro. The authorities say they are already investigating claims of abuses and that large-scale crimes against humanity have not occurred.

"Venezuela rejects the unfounded decision of the appeals court of the International Criminal Court, which corresponds to the intention to use the mechanisms of international criminal justice with political ends, all based on an accusation of supposed crimes against humanity which never occurred," Venezuela's Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said on X.

In 2020, the ICC prosecutor said there was a reasonable basis to believe that government and military officials had committed crimes against humanity in Venezuela since 2017.

Protesters in 2017 led months of demonstrations against the government, a period marked by accusations of torture, arbitrary arrest, and abuse by security forces. The protests left 125 people dead.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague, additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas Editing by Marguerita Choy)


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