The International Criminal Court has opened an office in Venezuela as part of an investigation into alleged human rights abuses during anti-government protests in 2017, authorities announced on Thursday.
The ICC opened a formal investigation into the alleged rights violations last November and signed a memorandum of understanding with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro which stated that the South American country would take "measures" to ensure the court would be able to work.
"It's a very important step, very significant. This is not for appearance's sake, it is something concrete that will allow me to carry out my responsibilities," said ICC prosecutor Karim Khan alongside Maduro at the presidential palace in Caracas.
"Venezuela will now have this office that will provide us with an effective level of dialogue in real time that is more efficient," said Maduro, who has been in power since 2013.
As part of the agreement, Venezuela has agreed to provide ICC officials with multiple entry visas to help them in carrying out their functions.
In 2017, more than 100 people died as security forces cracked down on protests sparked by the arrests of several opposition leaders and the supreme court's decision to dissolve the opposition-dominated National Assembly.
During a visit in November, Khan said the ICC had decided to move from a preliminary investigation, opened in 2018, to a formal one.
"As a state, we respect his decision, although we do not share it," Maduro said at the time.
When the ICC opened the preliminary investigation, Khan's predecessor Fatou Bensouda said there was a "reasonable basis" to believe the government had committed crimes against humanity.
Since 2017, some 150 members of the police and military have been charged or sentenced for human rights violations, according to the Public Ministry.
The opposition claims those actions were taken merely to try to avoid an ICC investigation.