International prosecutor will launch investigation into ‘crimes against humanity’ in Venezuela

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a formal investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela.

Security camera footage captures the moment Venezuelan officials detain Douglas Escalante in 2016. He left his home that day with plans to buy a car, but according to his mother, his body was later found showing signs he had been tortured.

“They found him and he had been tortured. He was naked and frozen. I demand justice from the Venezuelan government and I ask that the prosecutor listen to us,” Escalante’s mother said.

This process dates back to 2018, after dozens of allegations of extrajudicial killings, as protests raged in the streets.

Those demands may be one step closer to being met. After a three day visit to the country, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Karim Khan, has announced he will initiate a formal investigation for crimes against humanity in the country.

This is the first time the ICC has opened a formal investigation into a Latin American country, joining a handful of mostly African nations where the organization is investigating crimes.

n armored police vehicle catches fires from molotov bombs thrown by anti-government protesters in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Local 10 News reported extensively on those killings at the time in Caracas.

After speaking with people living in a makeshift apartment building, where multiple neighbors said police arrived and executed young men point blank, the family members of those affected now say they hope the court’s decision leads to the truth.

Jose Pernalete hopes their stories are heard by the court. Pernalete’s son, Juan Pablo, died in 2017 after being struck by a tear gas canister.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said he plans to cooperate with this investigation but disagrees with the decision.

“I guarantee that for this (new) stage that we are going to live, we leave the noise aside and we insist on working on the fulfillment of this agreement, between the parties, so that the truth can be found,” Maduro said at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Caracas.

Juan Guaido on the other hand, is calling the investigation a step towards justice.

In 2018, the governments of Canada, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru asked the ICC Prosecutor’s Office to open proceedings against the Maduro government for alleged crimes against humanity. In September 2020, independent investigators said in a report prepared for the UN Human Rights Council that Venezuelan security forces carried out horrific torture and killings using techniques such as electric shocks, genital mutilation and asphyxiation.

It is believed that any charges as a result of the investigation could take years.

About the Authors:

Veronica Crespo writes for and also oversees the Español section of the website. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism and Spanish.