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Civil society organizations align the ICC process with human rights demands under the UPR

In the advocacy framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a number of Venezuelan organizations exposed their perspectives and recommendations to different countries considering the formal opening of the investigation of the matter “Venezuela I” by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. It was a wide space for exchange with high-level representatives to articulate the general strategies for the promotion and defense of human rights with the international criminal proceedings for crimes against humanity in the country.

Civil organizations stated that the opening of the criminal file represents progress, mainly due to its dissuasive impact against the commission of other serious human rights violations and demands for justice. However, they agreed that its instrumental value is the most promising part for the human rights work in Venezuela. In fact, an open investigation into Venezuela could move the State to seek forms of cooperation with international human rights systems in order to demonstrate the adequacy and strength of its justice system.

This new international scenario opens a compass of opportunities for independent civil society organizations. The State might have incentives to advance a visit by the UN Special Procedures, enhance its cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on certain matters, and/or even advance in concrete reforms of the justice system as part of an alleged trial plan for crimes committed. The substance of these proposals, in terms of their possibilities, guarantees and real results, not only depend on the state’s political will, but on a strategic rethinking of the work of civil society to favor concrete advances in human rights amid foreseeable pamphlet official attempts.

The civil organizations already know that the ICC will not push democratic and constitutional changes the country urgently needs, but its gear as an important piece for the reactivation and maintenance of international monitoring mechanisms such as the Fact-Finding Mission, diplomatic and international pressure in a broad sense, as well as feedback from United Nations bodies and the Inter-American system, which all make it possible to conceive a forces relationship granting more powers to civil society. In these short-term change processes that could be built stands out relaunching political negotiation with the inclusion of human rights organizations, which must have a voice in other decision-making processes at the highest level on humanitarian, political and economic issues. Civil society has new elements, experiences and lessons learned, with a view of rethinking a more effective agenda.

These initial reflections on what should be explored in terms of the relationship between international criminal law and human rights in Venezuela emerged within the exchange with various actors and a few days before the pre-sessions of the UPR. Other approaches in this line are being worked on and will begin to take shape in the coming months. This back and forth with various relevant actors is a clear confirmation of the work that remains to be done while being possible with support and organization.