COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
26 April-14 May 1999
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE
19 OF THE CONVENTION
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture
124. The Committee considered the initial report of Venezuela (CAT/C/16/Add.8)
at its 370th, 373rd and 377th meetings, held on 29 and 30 April and
4 May 1999 (CAT/C/SR.370, 373 and 377), and adopted the following conclusions
125. Venezuela ratified
the Convention on 29 June 1991. It made the declarations provided
for under articles 21 and 22 on 21 December 1993, and has not formulated
any reservations or additional declarations.
126. Venezuela is also
a State party to the InterAmerican Convention to Prevent and Punish
127. The initial report
was submitted with several years' delay and does not provide sufficient
information on the practical application of the Convention. The Committee
appreciates the assurance given by the State's representative that
these shortcomings will be overcome and that the next report will
be submitted on time and in the appropriate form.
128. A large and wellqualified
delegation was present for the introduction of the report. The head
of delegation updated and elaborated on it in his statement and through
documents made available to the members of the Committee; responses
were given to members' observations and questions. This procedure
facilitated a more detailed examination, a better understanding of
the report and a frank and constructive dialogue, for which the Committee
2. Positive aspects
129. In a declaration
of principle, the head of the delegation expressed his Government's
determination to be increasingly strict in the area of human rights.
130. The Code of Penal
Procedure, which will enter into force shortly, contains very positive
provisions that make good the deficiencies of the existing Code of
Criminal Procedure; these deficiencies are identified as being highly
conducive to the practice of torture and to shortcomings in its investigation
and punishment. The full implementation of the new provisions should
contribute to the eradication of torture in Venezuela.
131. The Government intends
to submit for approval by the Legislature a bill to prevent and punish
torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in
order to give effect to the provisions of the Convention in domestic
132. The state of emergency
in force since 1994 has been terminated in the frontier districts
and the restrictions on constitutional guarantees have accordingly
133. The Act intended
to combat violence against women and the family has entered into force;
and the Organizational Act for the Protection of Children and Adolescents
has been approved, and will enter into force next year. Both laws
are intended to improve the protection of two particularly vulnerable
social sectors who frequently fall victim to discrimination, abuse
or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
134. Training initiatives
have been taken for law enforcement and prison personnel and have
been developed with support from foundations and nongovernmental
organizations; these are described in the part of the report relating
to article 10 of the Convention. The Public Prosecutor's Office has
taken the initiative of organizing a national programme of workshops
to acquaint medical professionals with recent scientific developments
in the investigation of torture, in particular torture that leaves
no visible or obvious marks.
3. Factors and difficulties
impeding the application of the Convention
135. The marked contrast
between the extensive legislation on matters addressed by the Convention
and the reality observed during the period covered by the report would
appear to indicate insufficient concern on the part of the authorities
responsible for ensuring the effective observance of the Convention.
4. Subjects of concern
136. The high number of
cases of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that have
occurred since the Convention's entry into force; they have been perpetrated
by all the State security bodies.
137. The failure of the
competent organs of the State to fulfil their duty to investigate
complaints and punish those responsible, who generally enjoy impunity;
this encourages repetition of the conduct in question. Not until the
report was submitted was the Committee informed of the imposition
of administrative penalties, but it has not been informed of any judicial
conviction for the offence of torture.
138. The continued existence
in the Penal Code, the Armed Forces (Organization) Act and the Code
of Military Justice of provisions exempting from criminal responsibility
persons who act on the basis of due obedience to a superior; these
provisions are incompatible with both article 46 of the Constitution
and article 2, paragraph 3, of the Convention.
139. The nonexistence
of effective procedures for monitoring respect for the physical integrity
of detainees in prisons, both civilian and military.
140. The overcrowding
in prisons, where capacity is exceeded by over 50 per cent, the lack
of segregation of the prison population, the fact that almost two
thirds of prisoners are awaiting trial and the endemic violence rampant
in Venezuelan jails mean that prisoners are permanently subjected
to forms of inhuman or degrading treatment.
141. The prompt consideration,
discussion and approval of the Bill relating to torture, whether it
takes the form of a separate law or is incorporated in the provisions
of the Penal Code.
142. The legislation in
question must provide for the hearing and trial in the ordinary courts
of any charge of torture, regardless of the body of which the accused
is a member.
143. During the consideration
and discussion of the Bill relating to torture, the Executive and
the Legislature should request and bear in mind the opinions of national
non-governmental organizations for the defence and promotion of human
rights, whose experience in looking after victims of torture and cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment may help to perfect this legal initiative.
144. In the process of
drafting a new constitution a provision should be included which grants
constitutional status to human rights treaties ratified by the State
and their selfexecuting nature, as has been recognized in the decisions
of the Supreme Court of Justice.
145. In addition, the
new constitution, through such provisions as may appear appropriate,
should strengthen the legal conditions for the protection of personal
security and integrity and for the prevention of practices that violate
such security and integrity.
146. In connection with
article 3 of the Convention, which stipulates that a person may not
be expelled, returned or extradited to another State where there are
substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being
subjected to torture, the Committee considers that, for the purposes
of the improved consideration of the advisability of applying this
provision to a particular case, it would appear appropriate for questions
of passive extradition to be considered at two instances, a procedure
which characterizes the Venezuelan judicial system.
147. On the same question,
it is recommended that the State should regulate procedures for dealing
with and deciding on applications for asylum and refugee status which
envisage the opportunity for the applicant to attend a formal hearing
and to make such submissions as may be relevant to the right which
he invokes, including pertinent evidence, with protection of the characteristics
of due process of law.
148. Repeal of rules providing
for exemption from criminal responsibility on the grounds that the
person concerned is acting in due obedience to a superior. Although
these rules are contrary to the Constitution, in practice they leave
open to judicial interpretation provisions which are incompatible
with article 3, paragraph 2, of the Convention.
149. Continue the human
rights training initiatives for State law enforcement officials and
prison personnel, and extend them to all police and security forces.
150. Establish a governmental
programme aimed at the physical, psychological and social rehabilitation
of torture victims.