1. The Committee considered
the third periodic report of Venezuela (CCPR/C/VEN/98/3 and addendum)
at its 1899th and 1900th meetings, held on 19 and 20 March 2001 and adopted
the following concluding comments at its 1918th meeting, held on 2 April
2. The Committee welcomes
the State party's third periodic report and the opportunity to be able
to continue its review of the human rights situation in Venezuela with
a delegation that included officials from various Government bodies. However,
it regrets the delay in submission of the report and the lack of information
on the de facto human rights situation in both the report and the addendum,
which greatly hindered it in determining whether human rights are fully
and effectively exercised and enjoyed in Venezuela.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee expresses
its satisfaction at the fact that the Constitution gives international
human rights instruments a status equal to that of the Constitution itself.
4. The Committee also notes
with satisfaction the numerous provisions of the Constitution which are
designed to recognize and guarantee various human rights, including the
establishment of an Office of the Ombudsman.
C. Subjects of concern and
5. The Committee is concerned
to discover that article 19 of the Constitution guarantees citizens their
rights "in accordance with the principle of progressiveness", a principle
that has not been satisfactorily explained.
6. The Committee is gravely
concerned at the reports of disappearances, despite the fact that such
acts have been defined as crimes under the new legislation. It is also
concerned at the lack of action by the State to deal with disappearances
that occurred in 1989. The delegation's statement that investigations
of the disappearances are being pursued is unsatisfactory.
Taking into account the provisions
of articles 6, 7 and 9 of the Covenant, the State party should give special
priority to rapid and effective investigations designed to determine the
whereabouts of the disappeared persons and those responsible for disappearances.
The State party should also take all necessary measures to prevent disappearances,
including adoption of the legislation described in article 45 of the Constitution.
7. The Committee is also gravely
concerned at the many reports of extrajudicial executions and the failure
of the State party to react to them.
The State party should conduct
investigations to identify those responsible for extrajudicial executions
and bring them to justice. It should also take the necessary measures
to prevent the occurrence of such violations of article 6 of the Covenant.
8. The Committee is deeply
concerned at the reports of torture and excessive use of force by the
police and other security forces in breach of article 7 of the Covenant;
the State party's apparent delay in responding to such occurrences; and
the absence of independent mechanisms to investigate the reports in question.
The right of recourse to the courts is not a substitute for such mechanisms.
The State party should establish
an independent body empowered to receive and investigate all reports of
excessive use of force and other abuses of authority by the police and
other security forces, to be followed, where appropriate, by prosecution
of those who appear to be responsible for them. The Committee also urges
the State party to pass laws giving effect to the prohibition of torture
and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment laid down in article 7 of the
Covenant and article 46 of the Constitution, and strengthen the human
rights education programmes for all State officials whose functions are
related to the treatment of detainees.
9. The Committee regrets the
lack of detailed information on detention by the police. It is also concerned
at the lack of clarity on the status and powers of the Sectoral Department
of Intelligence and Presentation Services (DISIP), especially given the
large number of complaints about the treatment of detainees.
To enable the Committee to
evaluate its compliance with articles 9, 10 and 14 of the Covenant, the
State party needs to tell it whether detained persons are brought before
a judge or an official with judicial authority without delay; whether
a lawyer may be present during their interrogation by the police; whether
they are automatically given medical check-ups on entering and after being
released from police custody; what regulations govern the holding of detained
persons incommunicado; whether appropriate legislation has been enacted
to implement all the provisions of the Constitution with respect to detention;
and the status and powers of DISIP.
10. The Committee regrets
the lack of information on the average time spent in detention awaiting
judgement. The length of such detention may raise issues of compatibility
with article 9, paragraph 3, and article 14 of the Covenant.
The State party should speed
up trials and abide strictly by article 9, paragraph 3, of the Covenant
in order to bring the situation into line with the requirements of the
11. The Committee is concerned
at conditions in Venezuelan prisons and places of detention, since the
delegation itself acknowledged that most human rights violations in Venezuela
occur in such places. The overcrowding and failure to segregate detainees
awaiting judgement from convicts are incompatible with the Covenant.
The recently established
institutional mechanisms (supervising prosecutors and prison-supervising
judges) for supervising conditions in prisons and investigating the complaints
of prisoners should be strengthened with a view to the implementation
of articles 7 and 10 of the Covenant.
12. While the Committee in
principle welcomes the reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it is
concerned at the lack of information on the provisions of the Code offering
guarantees of a fair trial as called for by article 14 of the Covenant.
The State party should provide
such information as soon as possible.
13. The Committee is particularly
concerned at the situation of the judiciary in Venezuela, which is still
undergoing reform. An extended reform process threatens the independence
of the judiciary, given the possibility that judges could be removed as
a result of the performance of their duties, thus infringing article 2,
paragraph 3, and article 14 of the Covenant. Another cause for concern
is the lack of information on the effects of the reform process to date
and the absence of a date for that process to come to an end.
The reform of the judiciary
must not continue. The State party should furnish information on the number
of judges removed during the process, the reasons for their removal, and
the procedure followed.
14. The Committee's concern
about the independence of the judiciary extends to the information, delivered
by the delegation, that article 275 of the Constitution empowers the National
Ethics Council (Consejo Moral Republicano) comprising the Ombudsman,
the Attorney-General and the Comptroller-General to issue warnings to
judges, even those of the Supreme Court, and impose sanctions if those
warnings are not heeded.
The State party should carry
out a careful review of the enabling bill for article 275 of the Constitution
in order to safeguard the independence of the judiciary in accordance
with article 2, paragraph 3, and article 14 of the Covenant.
15. The Committee is greatly
concerned at the treatment of persons seeking asylum or refuge in Venezuela,
especially those entering the country from Colombia, chiefly because of
the lack of national legislation establishing selection criteria for asylum
seekers even though there are bilateral arrangements between Colombia
and Venezuela on such matters. The Committee is also concerned about the
possible breach of the principle of non-refoulement.
The State party should ensure
compliance with articles 7 and 13 of the Covenant and with the norms of
general international law, adhere to or implement the relevant international
conventions, provide access to the relevant specialized agencies in the
areas concerned, and seek the assistance, if necessary, of the international
bodies dealing with the matter.
16. The Committee is deeply
concerned by the information on trafficking in women to Venezuela, especially
from neighbouring countries, and by the lack of information from the delegation
on the extent of the problem and action to combat it.
Preventive measures should
be taken to eliminate the trafficking in women in order to comply with
the provisions of articles 7 and 8 of the Covenant and set up rehabilitation
programmes for the victims. The laws and policies of the State party should
provide protection and support for the victims.
17. The Committee is concerned
about the level of violence against women, including the many reported
cases of kidnapping and murder that have not resulted in arrests or prosecution
of those responsible. It is also concerned at the many allegations of
rape or torture of women in custody by members of the security forces,
offences such women do not dare to report. All the foregoing gives rise
to serious concerns in the light of articles 6 and 7 of the Covenant.
The State party should take
effective measures to guarantee women's safety, ensure that no pressure
is put on them to dissuade them from reporting such violations, that all
allegations of abuses are investigated and that those committing such
acts are brought to justice.
18. The minimum marriageable
age, 14 for girls and 16 for boys, and the fact that such age may be lowered
without any limits for girls in case of pregnancy or childbirth, raises
problems with respect to the fulfilment by the State party of its obligation
under article 24, paragraph 1, to protect minors. Marriage at such an
early age does not appear to be compatible with article 23 of the Covenant,
which requires the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The
Committee is also concerned at the early age of sexual consent (12 ) for
The State party should amend
the relevant law to bring it into line with articles 23, 24 and 3 of the
19. The criminalization of
all non-therapeutic abortion poses serious problems, particularly in the
light of unchallenged reports that many women are undergoing life-threatening
illegal abortions. The legal duty imposed on health workers to report
cases where women have undergone abortions may deter women from seeking
medical treatment, thereby endangering their lives.
The State party must adopt
the necessary measures to guarantee the right to life (article 6) for
pregnant women who decide to terminate their pregnancies, including amending
the law to create exceptions to the general prohibition of all non-therapeutic
abortion. The State party should protect the confidential nature of medical
20. The Committee is concerned
about the continued existence of a legal provision exempting a rapist
from any penalty if he marries the victim.
The State party should immediately
repeal this legislation, which is incompatible with articles 3, 7, 23,
26, 2 (3) and 24 of the Covenant, particularly taking into account the
early age at which girls can enter into marriage.
21. The Committee is concerned
about the insufficient participation of women in political life, the judiciary,
and other sectors.
In order to comply with articles
3 and 25, the State party should take the appropriate measures to improve
participation by women, through affirmative action programmes if necessary.
22. With a view to complying
with its obligations arising from articles 2, 3 and 26 of the Covenant,
the Committee urges the State party to amend all laws that still discriminate
against women, including those relating to adultery and the ban on marriage
for 10 months following the dissolution of a previous marriage.
23. The Committee is concerned
at the lack of a wide-ranging law prohibiting discrimination in private-sector
areas such as employment and housing. Pursuant to article 2, paragraph
3, and article 26 of the Covenant, the State party has a duty to protect
persons against such discrimination.
The State party should promulgate
a law prohibiting all discrimination and providing effective recourse
for all persons against violations of their right to non-discrimination.
24. The Committee deplores
the continually worsening situation of street children. Those children
are at high risk of sexual violence and are vulnerable to sexual trafficking.
The State party should take
effective measures for the protection and rehabilitation of street children,
pursuant to article 24 of the Covenant, including measures to end sexual
exploitation and child pornography.
25. The Committee notes the
privileged status of the Roman Catholic Church and is concerned about
the possible adverse effects of this on other religions.
The State party should guarantee
that no religious community in Venezuela will suffer discrimination.
26. The Committee notes that
there is no provision in Venezuelan law for conscientious objection to
military service, which is legitimate pursuant to article 18 of the Covenant.
The State party should see
to it that individuals required to perform military service can plead
conscientious objection and perform alternative service without discrimination.
27. The Committee is very
concerned about interference by the authorities in trade-union activities
including the free election of union leaders.
The State party should, pursuant
to article 22 of the Covenant, guarantee that unions are free to conduct
their business and choose their business without official interference.
28. The Committee commends
the State party for its constitutional provisions relating to indigenous
populations, particularly articles 120 and 123 requiring indigenous communities
to be notified and consulted beforehand if the State wished to exploit
natural resources in areas they inhabited and enshrining the right of
indigenous peoples to pursue and promote their own economic practices.
It regrets, however, the lack of any information regarding the practical
implementation of those constitutional provisions.
The State party should provide
information to the Committee on the implementation of those constitutional
provisions with a view to complying with article 27.
29. The State party should
widely publicize the text of its third periodic report, the addendum and
these concluding observations.
30. The State party should,
pursuant to article 70, paragraph 5, of the Committee's rules of procedure,
furnish within one year information on any action it takes in the light
of the Committee's recommendations on enforced or involuntary disappearances
(paras. 6 and 7 above), torture and the excessive use of force by the
police and other security forces (para. 8), police detention and detention
while awaiting judgement (paras. 9 and 10), prisons (para. 11) and the
status of the judiciary and due process (paras. 12-14). The Committee
requests the incorporation of information on the remainder of its recommendations
in the fourth periodic report, due for submission by 1 April 2005.