October 1, 2016

OAS Commission on Venezuela

The Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, using his prerogative in fulfillment of the obligation under article 2 a) of the Charter of the OAS to strengthen peace and security on the continent, and the regional obligation of the OAS under the United Nations Charter, has triggered a process to determine whether crimes against humanity under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court have been committed in Venezuela, a State party to the Rome Statute.

As part of this process, he appointed Luis Moreno Ocampo as Special Advisor on Crimes Against Humanity to advise the OAS in assessing whether the preconditions to the exercise of jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have been met. As an independent facilitator, Luis Moreno Ocampo has convened impartial and independent public hearings following the Almagro formula to allow all the parties involved to present the evidence to a panel of Experts on the following issues that are key to determining whether the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should open an investigation into a situation:

a) whether the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed against civilians in a widespread and systematic in the territory of Venezuela;
b) whether the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that the crimes were committed following policy; and
c) whether the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that the government has started genuine investigation and prosecutions against the alleged perpetrators.

The public hearings which will be held on September 14 (10am to 12:30pm GMT-4) and September 15 (9am to 11:30am GMT-4) at the OAS headquarters in Washington. The herings will be live streamed (in English here and in Spanish here) and attended by the ambassadors and observers of the OAS member states. On Thursday 14th representatives of Venezuelan civil society will present evidence, and on Friday, 15th the members of the Venezuelan armed forces will present their testimonies.

The information obtained through the public hearings and by the investigation team will be reviewed by an expert panel by October 30, 2017 assessing whether crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC have been committed in Venezuela. They will evaluate the material to determine whether it has sufficient merit for the Secretary General to refer it to the ICC.

At the end of this process, the Secretary-General of the OAS will send any information received to the Prosecutor of the ICC and the 35 member states of OAS, which includes 28 States party to the ICC, will be able to vote to decide whether OAS should refer the situation to the Court. The OAS member states require 18 votes to trigger the Democratic Chart of the OAS and take such action.

Irrespective of this outcome, it is important to note that pursuant to Article 14 of the Rome Statute any State Party to the Rome Statute can refer to the Prosecutor of the ICC “a situation in which one or more crimes within the jurisdiction of the court appear to have been committed requesting the prosecutor to investigate the situation (…).”

Keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages for regular updates on the issues presented during the hearings.