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Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

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Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse
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Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

2024-04-23 07:40 Last Updated At:07:50

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with the head of the International Criminal Court as he faces an ongoing investigation by the tribunal into crimes against humanity for his crackdown on anti-government protests.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan's fourth visit to Venezuela comes almost two months after an appeals panel ruled that the court’s investigation could proceed over the objections of Maduro’s government.

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Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, arrives at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with the head of the International Criminal Court as he faces an ongoing investigation by the tribunal into crimes against humanity for his crackdown on anti-government protests.

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, right, shakes hands with Venezuelan General Attorney Tarek William Saab after a meeting at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. Behind is Jorge Rodriguez, National Assembly president. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, right, shakes hands with Venezuelan General Attorney Tarek William Saab after a meeting at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. Behind is Jorge Rodriguez, National Assembly president. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, right, speaks next to National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez, center, and Venezuelan General Attorney Tarek William Saab at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, right, speaks next to National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez, center, and Venezuelan General Attorney Tarek William Saab at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court, right, speaks with National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court, right, speaks with National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, left, passes a piece of paper during a meeting at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, left, passes a piece of paper during a meeting at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

FILE - Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro attends a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 20, 2024. Maduro on April 16, 2024, ordered the closure of his country’s embassy and consulates in Ecuador in solidarity with Mexico in its protest over a raid by Ecuadorian authorities on the Mexican embassy in Quito. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

FILE - Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro attends a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 20, 2024. Maduro on April 16, 2024, ordered the closure of his country’s embassy and consulates in Ecuador in solidarity with Mexico in its protest over a raid by Ecuadorian authorities on the Mexican embassy in Quito. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

Khan said he was hopeful that, even as its independent investigation continues, the ICC could supply technical assistance to Venezuelan authorities so that there could be "meaningful justice” in the country.

“I think there is unity on a central truth: that the dark cloud of suspicion or allegations will not lift without the gentle breeze or winds of credible investigations,” Khan said after his meeting with Venezuela's chief prosecutor.

The U.S. is not a party to the Netherlands-based ICC but has backed the probe, originally proposed by several Latin American nations, into Maduro’s responsibility for alleged abuses including arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence committed by security forces deployed to quell protests in 2017.

The appeals judges, in announcing their ruling in March, said that Venezuelan investigations appeared to be focused on low-level perpetrators. The ICC seeks to prosecute senior commanders deemed responsible for crimes.

The judges also noted that “Venezuela appears to have taken limited investigative steps and that, in many cases, there appear to be periods of unexplained investigative inactivity,” the court said in its statement.

They also said that the domestic investigations in Venezuela did not appear to sufficiently cover parts of the international probe — including allegations of persecution and sexual crimes.

Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, arrives at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, arrives at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, right, shakes hands with Venezuelan General Attorney Tarek William Saab after a meeting at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. Behind is Jorge Rodriguez, National Assembly president. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, right, shakes hands with Venezuelan General Attorney Tarek William Saab after a meeting at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. Behind is Jorge Rodriguez, National Assembly president. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, right, speaks next to National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez, center, and Venezuelan General Attorney Tarek William Saab at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, right, speaks next to National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez, center, and Venezuelan General Attorney Tarek William Saab at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court, right, speaks with National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court, right, speaks with National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, left, passes a piece of paper during a meeting at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, left, passes a piece of paper during a meeting at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

FILE - Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro attends a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 20, 2024. Maduro on April 16, 2024, ordered the closure of his country’s embassy and consulates in Ecuador in solidarity with Mexico in its protest over a raid by Ecuadorian authorities on the Mexican embassy in Quito. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

FILE - Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro attends a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 20, 2024. Maduro on April 16, 2024, ordered the closure of his country’s embassy and consulates in Ecuador in solidarity with Mexico in its protest over a raid by Ecuadorian authorities on the Mexican embassy in Quito. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

Venezuela's president meets with accuser in ongoing criminal probe into human rights abuse

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Spain, Ireland and Norway recognize a Palestinian state. Why does that matter?

2024-05-28 17:35 Last Updated At:17:40

Spain, Ireland and Norway are moving to formally recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday, a step toward a long-held Palestinian aspiration that was fueled by international outrage over the civilian deaths and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s offensive.

The joint decision by two European Union countries plus Norway, a nation with a strong diplomatic tradition in peacemaking, may generate momentum for the recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries and could spur further steps at the United Nations, deepening Israel’s isolation.

Previously seven member of the 27-nation European Union officially recognized a Palestinian state. Five of them are former east bloc countries who announced recognition in 1988, as did Cyprus, before joining the bloc. Sweden's recognition came in 2014.

The Czech Republic, an EU member, says that the 1988 recognition by the former Czechoslovakia — of which it then formed a part — does not apply to the modern state. Slovakia's Foreign Ministry says that the two sides confirmed their mutual recognition when Slovakia was becoming independent in 1992-93, and that the Palestinian state has a fully functioning embassy in Bratislava since 2006.

EU members Malta and Slovenia say they may follow suit, though not immediately.

Some 140 of the about 190 countries represented in the U.N. have already recognized a Palestinian state.

Here’s a look at how and why the new European announcements could be important:

A U.N. partition plan in 1947 called for the creation of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state, but Palestinians and the wider Arab world rejected it because it would have given them less than half of the land even though Palestinians made up two-thirds of the population.

The Arab-Israeli war the following year left Israel with even more territory, Jordan in control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and Egypt in control of Gaza.

In the 1967 war, Israel seized all three territories, and decades of on-again, off-again peace talks have failed.

The United States, Britain and other Western countries have backed the idea of an independent Palestinian state existing alongside Israel as a solution to the Middle East’s most intractable conflict, but they insist Palestinian statehood should come as part of a negotiated settlement. There have been no substantive negotiations since 2009.

Though the EU countries and Norway won’t be recognizing an existing state, just the possibility of one, the symbolism helps enhance the Palestinians’ international standing and heaps more pressure on Israel to open negotiations on ending the war.

Also, the move lends additional prominence to the Middle East issue ahead of June 6-9 elections to the European Parliament.

Diplomatic pressure on Israel has grown as the battle with Hamas stretches into its eighth month. The U.N. General Assembly voted by a significant margin on May 11 to grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine in a sign of growing international support for a vote on full voting membership. The Palestinian Authority currently has observer status.

The leaders of Spain, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia said in March they were considering recognizing a Palestinian state as “a positive contribution” toward ending the war.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that his Cabinet would certify the formal recognition after a meeting Tuesday.

“This is a historic decision that has a single goal, and that is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace,” Sánchez said.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement that “for more than 30 years, Norway has been one of the strongest advocates for a Palestinian state. Today, when Norway officially recognizes Palestine as a state, is a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine.”

While dozens of countries have recognized a Palestinian state, none of the major Western powers has done so, and it is unclear how much of a difference the move by the three countries might make.

Even so, their recognition would mark a significant accomplishment for the Palestinians, who believe it confers international legitimacy on their struggle.

Little would likely change on the ground in the short term. Peace talks are stalled, and Israel’s hardline government has dug its heels in against Palestinian statehood.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz lashed out at Spain on X, saying Sánchez’s government was “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes.”

Israel, which rejects any move to legitimize the Palestinians internationally, recalled its ambassadors to Ireland, Norway and Spain after they announced the decision last week.

Steps like the ones by the three European countries will harden the Palestinian position and undermine the negotiating process, Israel says, insisting that all issues should be solved through negotiations.

Israel often responds to foreign countries’ decisions deemed as going against its interests by summoning those countries’ ambassadors and also punishing the Palestinians through measures such as freezing tax transfers to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

Some 140 countries have already recognized a Palestinian, more than two-thirds of the United Nations' membership.

Some major powers have indicated their stance may be evolving amid the outcry over the consequences of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The ministry does not distinguish between noncombatants and fighters in its count. Israel launched the offensive following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in which militants stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage.

Britain has said no recognition of a Palestinian state could come while Hamas remains in Gaza, but that it could happen while Israeli negotiations with Palestinian leaders were in progress.

France has indicated that it isn’t ready to join other countries in recognizing a Palestinian state, even if it isn’t opposed to the idea in principle. German has said it will not recognize a Palestinian state for the time being.

Follow AP’s Israel-Hamas coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, May 22, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway announced Wednesday May 22, 2024 their recognition of a Palestinian state. Malta and Slovenia, which also belong to the 27-nation European Union, may follow suit amid international outrage over the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel's offensive. (Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via AP)

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, May 22, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway announced Wednesday May 22, 2024 their recognition of a Palestinian state. Malta and Slovenia, which also belong to the 27-nation European Union, may follow suit amid international outrage over the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel's offensive. (Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via AP)

The three Irish Government leaders from left, Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Simon Harris and Tanaiste Micheal Martin speak to the media during a press conference outside the Government Buildings, in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state.(Damien Storan/PA via AP)

The three Irish Government leaders from left, Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Simon Harris and Tanaiste Micheal Martin speak to the media during a press conference outside the Government Buildings, in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state.(Damien Storan/PA via AP)

FILE - People gather in support of the Palestinain people, amid the conflict with Israel, in front of the parliament building in Oslo, Norway, on May 19, 2021. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state. (Berit Roald/NTB via AP, File)

FILE - People gather in support of the Palestinain people, amid the conflict with Israel, in front of the parliament building in Oslo, Norway, on May 19, 2021. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state. (Berit Roald/NTB via AP, File)

FILE - A boy waves a Palestinian flag as demonstrators march during a protest in support of Palestinians and calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in Barcelona, Spain, on Jan. 20, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

FILE - A boy waves a Palestinian flag as demonstrators march during a protest in support of Palestinians and calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in Barcelona, Spain, on Jan. 20, 2024. European Union countries Spain and Ireland as well as Norway on Wednesday announced dates for recognizing Palestine as a state. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

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