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Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. Photo: Manaure Quintero/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The International Criminal Court is investigating whether crimes against humanity were committed by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's security forces during a crackdown on anti-government protests in 2017.

Driving the news: Maduro signed a memorandum with ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on Wednesday, but said he disagrees with the decision to open a formal probe. The Venezuelan leader said the memo will guarantee "cooperation, positive complementarity, mutual support, constructive dialogue to seek truth and justice between the Venezuelan government and the ICC."

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Why it matters: The decision to formally investigate allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings "gives hope of justice to the hundreds of victims of brutal repression by the Maduro regime," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch in a statement.

  • It's the first such investigation in Latin American history, Vivanco noted.

The big picture: Khan said at the memo signing ceremony in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, that he decided to move from a preliminary investigation to a formal inquiry in order to "seek the truth."

  • Khan’s predecessor Fatou Bensouda concluded in the earlier probe that there was a "reasonable basis" to believe Venezuela's government had committed crimes against humanity during the protest clampdown.
  • Khan warned he would "take a dim view of any efforts to politicize the independent work of my office."

What they're saying: Juan Guaidó, whom the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela's legitimate interim leader, said the probe "asserts the right to obtain justice that has been denied in Venezuela for the victims" of the Maduro regime.

  • Opposition leader Leopoldo López called the investigation a "victory for thousands of victims and Venezuelan families," adding that "Maduro and his dictatorship will have to answer to the ICC for every political prisoner who has died in their state prisons; for everyone who has been persecuted, unjustly imprisoned, tortured and murdered."

What to watch: Any criminal charges presented as part of the ICC probe could still be years away, AP notes.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to add comment from Venezuelan opposition leaders.

Go deeper

Axios Investigates

Exclusive: Airbnb hosts Xinjiang rentals on land owned by sanctioned group

Data: Axios research, Airbnb, Australia Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre; Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in China's Xinjiang region on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government for complicity in genocide and forced labor, an Axios investigation has found.

Why it matters: The listings expose Airbnb to regulatory risk under U.S. law. They also land yet another American tech company in the crossfire between the U.S. and China.

Travel bans upend holiday plans amid new virus fears

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Just when it seemed safe to travel overseas again, along comes Omicron.

Why it matters: The emergence of the new coronavirus variant couldn't come at a worse time, just weeks before millions of people are expected to travel for the holidays to reunite with loved ones they've missed during the pandemic.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The emergence of the Omicron COVID variant is turbocharging the push for vaccine boosters, and experts say a booster may soon become a requirement to be considered "fully vaccinated."

Why it matters: Booster uptake has been sluggish so far, and adding a third shot to vaccine mandates would be highly controversial.