On 10 June 2023, I completed my third official visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Over our two days in Caracas, I believe we have taken important steps, strengthening the basis for meaningful action under the Rome Statute.
At the conclusion of the visit, I was pleased to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the President of the Republic, H.E Mr Nicolás Maduro Moros, establishing an in-country office of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Venezuela. This MoU was concluded within the framework of the first Memorandum of Understanding I signed with President Maduro on 3 November 2021 and followed our agreement upon my second visit to Venezuela in March 2022 to proceed with establishment of an OTP office.
As I have said since the beginning of my term as Prosecutor, my Office most effectively delivers its mandate when it can work closer to the countries that form the Rome Statute community. Under this MoU, we will be able to increase the scale and impact of our field presence in Venezuela, broaden the domestic interface for our work and seek to identify and support meaningful efforts to improve national justice initiatives.
The MoU also outlines a series of priority areas in relation to which my Office will provide advice and assistance to Venezuelan authorities, in line with the principle of complementarity at the heart of the Rome Statute. These include assistance for legislative developments in the field of justice and the sharing of knowledge and best practices with national authorities. We will also work with national counterparts to increase knowledge of the Rome Statute and the cooperation modalities of the ICC.
In my meetings with President Maduro, we discussed in open terms how we can support Venezuela in seizing opportunities for meaningful change towards greater accountability for Rome Statute crimes. In his remarks upon the signing of the MoU, he noted that this represented a chance to introduce positive improvements to domestic action on accountability.
I also underlined to the President, as I have done repeatedly, that I recognise and appreciate his constructive approach to engagement despite his disagreement with my decision to open an investigation into alleged Rome Statute crimes committed in Venezuela in November 2021.
That difference of views of course remains, and is reflected in the proceedings presently before the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court, whose authorisation I have sought to resume the investigation following the request by the Government of Venezuela for formal deferral in favour of actions carried out by Venezuelan national authorities.
As the Pre-Trial Chamber continues its deliberations on this issue, I will continue to engage with Venezuelan authorities and all other stakeholders in order to ensure full conformity with the Rome Statute.
My engagements in Venezuela last week also provided me with an opportunity to explore how issues of accountability in Venezuela can be further addressed, alongside the human rights work of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. Through common work and deeper dialogue across the justice and human rights pillars in Venezuela, I believe we can set a path to meaningful complementarity. I welcomed the positive response of President Maduro to this initiative, which I believe can serve as a model for effective ICC-OHCHR collaboration in other Situations.
During my visit, I was also able to meet and exchange with Her Excellency the Vice-President, Dr Delcy Rodriguez, the Attorney General, Mr Tarek Saab, and the President of the Supreme Court, Ms Gladys Gutierrez. I and my delegation also met with Mr Gianluca Rampolla del Tindaro, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Venezuela, and members of the diplomatic corps. I also visited a potential office space where my staff could be located.
As we now look forward to our increased engagement in Venezuela, my Office remains committed to pursuing all channels for enhancing accountability for Rome Statute crimes. In the courtroom, my Office will continue to assert its jurisdiction until we are of the view that Venezuela can effectively implement its obligations. In our cooperation with Venezuelan national authorities, we will continue to deepen our collaboration in order to strengthen the basis for meaningful domestic action. The establishment of an office in Caracas will accelerate this work.
As we take forward these two tracks of activities, my Office will deepen its partnerships with all stakeholders and will, in particular, continue to strengthen our crucial engagement with civil society.
The Rome Statute belongs to Venezuela and its people as much as it does to any other State Party. If we are to deliver, collectively, on its promise then we must make use of all possible opportunities for progress. This is an approach that will continue to mark our work in this Situation across the activities of the Office. And we will continue to rely on the trust and partnership of all actors in this effort.
I wish to express my thanks to the Venezuelan authorities that facilitated and supported my visit to Caracas.
Venezuela ratified the Rome Statute on 7 June 2000. The OTP opened a preliminary examination into the Situation in Venezuela I in February 2018, and, on 27 September 2018, the Office received a referral from a group of States Parties to the Rome Statute requesting the initiation of an investigation for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Venezuela since 12 February 2014.
On 3 November 2021, the Prosecutor announced the opening of an investigation into the Situation. On 15 April 2022, the Government of Venezuela requested the Office to formally defer its investigation in favour of actions carried out by the national authorities of Venezuela. On 1 November 2022, the Prosecutor requested the authorisation of the Pre-Trial Chamber I to resume its investigation into the Situation, pursuant to article 18(2) of the Rome Statute. The Pre-Trial Chamber is currently deliberating on this Request.