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Venezuela's Constitution: Duties, Human Rights and Guarantees (Art 19 - 31)

By Aleksander Boyd

London 04.01.05 | The section of the Constitution that deals with human rights and guarantees is perhaps the most impinged by the neofascist regime of Hugo Chavez. It is rather pointless at this stage to enumerate the violations that to date Venezuelans have suffered, suffice to say that all indicators point at a dramatic increase in human rights violations in Venezuela since Chavez ascent to power in 1998. All persons are equal before the law... Had Venezuela a functioning and independent judiciary in place, Hugo Chavez and the whole of his government would be in jail solely due to the judicial enforcement of article 25.


Chapter I, General Provisions

Article 19: The State shall guarantee to every individual, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination of any kind, not renounceable, indivisible and interdependent enjoyment and exercise of human rights. Respect for and the guaranteeing of these rights is obligatory for the organs of Public Power, in accordance with the Constitution, the human rights treaties signed and ratified by the Republic and any laws developing the same.

Article 20: Everyone has the right to the free development of his or her own personality, subject only to the limitations deriving from the rights of others and public and social order.

Article 21: All persons are equal before the law, and, consequently:

1. No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual.

2. The law shall guarantee legal and administrative conditions such as to make equality before the law real and effective manner; shall adopt affirmative measures for the benefit of any group that is discriminated against, marginalized or vulnerable; shall protect in particular those persons who, because of any of the aforementioned circumstances, are in a manifestly weak position; and shall punish those who abuse or mistreat such persons.

3. People will only be officially addressed as Citizens, except for diplomatic forms.

4. No titles of nobility or hereditary distinctions shall be recognized.

Article 22: The recitation of rights and guarantees contained in this Constitution and in international instruments concerning human rights are not to be understood as negating others inherent to individuals, not expressly mentioned in such recitation. The absence of a law regulating these rights shall not adversely affect the exercise thereof.

Article 23: The treaties, pacts and conventions relating human rights which have been executed and ratified by Venezuela have a constitutional rank, and prevail over internal legislation, insofar as they contain provisions concerning the enjoyment and exercise of such rights that are more favorable than those established by this Constitution arid the laws of the Republic, and shall be immediately and directly applied by the courts and other organs of the Public Power.

Article 24: No legislative provision shall have retroactive effect, except where it imposes a lesser penalty. Procedural laws shall apply from the moment they go into effect, even to proceedings already in progress; however, in criminal proceedings, evidence already admitted shall be weighed in accordance with the laws that were in effect when the evidence was admitted, insofar as this benefits the defendant.

When there are doubts as to the rule of law that is to be applied, the most beneficial to the defendant will prevail.

Article 25: Any act on the part of the Public Power that violates or encroaches upon the rights guaranteed by this Constitution and by law is null and void, and the public employees* ordering or implementing the same shall incur criminal, civil and administrative liability, as applicable in each case, with no defense on grounds of having followed the orders of a superior.

Article 26: Everyone has the right to access the organs comprising the justice system for the purpose of enforcing his or her rights and interests, including those of a collective or diffuse nature to the effective protection of the aforementioned and to obtain the corresponding prompt decision.

The State guarantees justice that is free of charge, accessible, impartial, suitable, transparent, autonomous, independent, responsible, equitable and expeditious, without undue delays, superfluous formalities or useless reinstating.

Article 27: Everyone has the right to be protected by the courts in the enjoyment and exercise of constitutional rights and guarantees, including even those inherent individual rights not expressly mentioned in this Constitution or in international instruments concerning human rights.

Proceedings on a claim for constitutional protection shall be oral, public, brief, free of charge and unencumbered by formalities, and the competent judge shall have the power to restore immediately the legal situation infringed upon or the closest possible equivalent thereto. All time shall be available for the holding of such proceedings, and the court shall give constitutional claims priority over any other matters.

The action for the protection of liberty or safety, may be exercised by any person and the physical custody of the person of the detainee shall be transferred immediately to the court, without delay.

The exercise of this right shall not be affected in any way by the declaration of a state of exception or restriction of constitutional guarantees.

Article 28: Anyone has the right of access to the information and data concerning him or her or his or her goods which are contained in official or private records, with such exceptions as may be established by law, as well as what use is being made of the same and the purpose thereof, and to petition the court of competent competence for the updating, correction or destruction of any records that are erroneous or unlawfully 'affect the petitioner's right. He or she may, as well, access documents of any nature containing information of interest to communities or group of persons. The foregoing is without prejudice to the confidentiality of sources from which information is received by journalist, or secrecy in other professions as may be determined by law.

Article 29: The State is obliged to investigate and legally punish offenses against human rights committed by its authorities.

Actions to punish the offense of violating humanity rights, serious violations of human rights and war crimes shall not be subject to statute of limitation. Human rights violations and the offense of violating humanity rights shall be investigated and adjudicated by the courts of ordinary competence. These offenses are excluded from any benefit that might render the offenders immune from punishment, including pardons and amnesty.

Article 30: The State has the obligation to make full reparations to the victims of human rights violations for which it may be held responsible, and to the legal successors to such victims, including payment of damages.

The State shall adopt the necessary legislative measures and measures of other nature to implement the reparations and damage compensation provided for under this article.

The State shall protect the victims of ordinary crimes and endeavor to make the guilty parties provide reparations for the inflicted damages.

Article 31: Everyone has the right, on the terms established by the human rights treaties, pacts and conventions ratified by the Republic, to address petitions and complaints to the intentional organs created for such purpose, in order to ask for protection of his or her human rights.

The State shall adopt, in accordance with the procedures established under this Constitution and by the law, such measures as may be necessary to enforce the decisions emanating from international organs as provided for under this article.

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