Last November, the ICC opened a formal investigation into alleged rights violations during a crackdown by security forces on protests sparked by the arrests of several opposition leaders in 2017.
The prosecutor’s office of the International Criminal Court has said it will open an office in Venezuela, as it investigates allegations of torture and killings by the South American country’s security forces.
The decision to open the office was announced by ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan on Thursday at the end of a three-day trip to the capital, Caracas.
In a televised appearance alongside President Nicolas Maduro, Khan said he welcomed the commitment of the Venezuelan government to explore cooperation during the investigation.
Khan said Maduro’s government agreed to provide visas to court officials and to the participation of international organisations, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"Venezuela will now have this office that will provide us with an effective level of dialogue in real time that is more efficient," said Maduro, who has been in power since 2013.
“We are first interested in seeing justice carried out, and where a crime of the characteristics is committed, it be punished according to the law, on time,” he said.
Call for justice
Opposition leader Juan Guaido — who is backed by around 60 countries as Venezuela's acting president after Maduro's 2018 re-election in a poll widely viewed as fraudulent — praised the development on Twitter.
"The announcement... about opening an ICC office in our country is progress to determine responsibility and implement justice, something that today does not exist for Venezuelans," he wrote.
Khan announced the investigation in November.
At the time, the court and Maduro’s administration signed a memorandum of understanding in which the government agreed to cooperate to clarify the facts that led to the initiation of the process.
That announcement followed a lengthy preliminary probe started in February 2018 that focused on allegations of excessive force, arbitrary detention and torture by security forces during a crackdown on anti-government protests.
In 2017, more than 100 people died as security forces cracked down on demonstrations sparked by the arrests of several opposition leaders and the supreme court's decision to dissolve the opposition-dominated National Assembly.
Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, had indicated there was a reasonable basis to conclude that crimes against humanity had been committed, echoing the findings of the UN’s human rights council last year.
But she left the decision to open any probe to Khan, a British lawyer who took the reins of the ICC earlier this year.