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¿Qué significa una investigación preliminar de la Corte Penal Internacional? [What Does a Preliminary Investigation by the International Criminal Court mean?]

International Justice has defined mechanisms to enforce the law. Before rendering a verdict and determining responsibilities, the International Criminal Court (ICC) undertakes an investigation whose scope is to enforce justice anywhere in the world where human rights have been violated through four fundamental crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

The work of this permanent international tribunal is governed by the Rome Statute and can be initiated when the crimes were committed by a national State Party, on the territory of a State Party, or in a State that has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. Crimes referred to the ICC Prosecutor by the United Nations Security Council are also taken into account.

The first step to be taken by the ICC is to determine, through its Prosecutor's Office, whether there is sufficient evidence of serious crimes within the jurisdiction of the international tribunal. At this stage, the existence of genuine national proceedings is assessed, as well as the likelihood that opening an in-depth investigation would serve the interests of justice and the victims involved.

In case the requirements for initiating an investigation are not met or if the crimes committed do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Court, the legal process will not be opened. On the contrary, if the situation is within the required guidelines, the international court of justice will identify the possible suspects and further investigation of the case will be undertaken. At this stage the Office of the Prosecutor will request the ICC to issue either an arrest warrant for the suspects or a summons to appear in court.

Pre-test phase confirms the suspect's identity and you are made to understand the charges you are accused of. The judges handling the case will determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial. The hearings will begin when the suspect is brought before the law. Subsequently, in the evidentiary stage, the judges consider all the evidence and render a verdict in which the suspects may be sentenced. Court sentences can be up to 30 years imprisonment, or in exceptional circumstances life imprisonment. If there is insufficient evidence to prove the suspect's guilt, the suspect is released.

Upon presentation of the verdict, the Prosecutor and the defense have the right to appeal the ICC's decision.if it deems it convenient. Through the Chamber of Appeals, the Court, through judges other than those who decided the sentence, decides whether or not to accept the requested appeal. The final step of the legal procedure is the application of the sentence in case the sentence is not appealed and the guilt of the suspects is determined.

Request for preliminary investigation in Venezuela

Excessive force by Venezuelan state security agencies during the 2017 protests. was the reason why the ICC decided to initiate preliminary examinations in order to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to initiate legal proceedings before the jurisdiction of this permanent international tribunal.

The announcement was offered last February 8, 2018 by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.The legal proceeding was initiated to evaluate whether there are grounds to investigate the State. This process was opened due to the review of numerous reports submitted to the Court requesting the study of the case.

The situation of protests in Venezuela, for which the preliminary investigation is being requested, involved at least four months of civil demonstrations against the government of the current president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has calculated 125 deaths during the period, 10,000 wounded and at least 5,000 arbitrarily detained.

When this procedure is initiated, the country enters an observation period. to enable the Office of the Prosecutor to analyze government conduct and gather the necessary information through oral and written testimony, as well as through the appointment of missions to Venezuela to learn the details of the investigation. The ICC will also have the authority to interrogate the government officials involved and open investigations into individual cases.

Keys to the legal process at the ICC

  • Minors under 18 years of age are not prosecuted when they have committed a crime.
  • Before the Prosecutor's Office can investigate, a preliminary examination must be carried out in order to have the required basis for the process.
  • In investigating, the prosecutor must gather and disclose both incriminating and exonerating evidence.
  • The accused is considered innocent until proven guilty.
  • During all stages of the proceedings, the accused has the right to access information in the language he/she fully understands.
  • Preliminary trial judges issue arrest warrants and ensure that there is sufficient evidence before initiating a thorough investigation.
  • Before a case is handed over for trial the alleged offender is considered a suspect.
  • Only a sentence can change this status to defendant.
  • The trial judges are in charge of evaluating the evidence of the prosecution, the defense and the victims' lawyers in order to issue a verdict and subsequently a sentence.
  • If a case is closed without a guilty verdict, it may be reopened if the prosecution presents new evidence.

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