ICC to open office in Venezuela, prosecutor says

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International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan poses during an interview with Reuters at the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands, March 3, 2022. REUTERS/Christian Levaux/File Photo

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CARACAS, March 31 (Reuters) - International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said on Thursday during a visit to Venezuelan capital Caracas that the court will open an office there, amid a preliminary investigation into alleged human rights violations by officials.

Khan, who appearing on state television with President Nicolas Maduro, said his three-day visit to the South American country had been fruitful.

Khan last visited in November, when he said he would open an investigation into possible crimes against humanity allegedly committed since 2017 by officials in Maduro's government. read more

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Maduro said at the time he respected the decision but did not share it.

"I know my visit here has not been simple," Khan said through an official translation, adding Maduro was "very clear" last year that investigation by the ICC was unwarranted.

"We have had a frank exchange," Khan said, adding the men agreed that "the ICC prosecutor can open an office in Caracas. It is a very important, very significant step."

For his part, Maduro said he welcomed the visit by the ICC and that they have the capacity to give technical assistance to help Venezuela advance.

A team of United Nations investigators said last year that Venezuela's judicial system has perpetuated human rights violations as part of a state policy to quash opposition to Maduro. read more

As part of a judicial reform, the country's parliament, which is controlled by the ruling party, approved cutting the number of magistrates on the country's high court to 20 from 32, but they are still debating who will fill the seats.

The opposition and rights groups have said the reform is a farce and will not change the justice system.

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Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler

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