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Venezuela: Appointment and promotion of judges; Security of tenure

To safeguard the independence of the judiciary and the rights to equality before the law and equal access to the profession, international standards clarify that judges should be appointed though an open process on the basis of prescribed criteria based on merit and integrity, and without discrimination.[1] To ensure that the composition of the judiciary is essentially reflective of the population and to combat discrimination and ensure equality before the law, steps should be taken to ensure the appointment of qualified women and members of minority communities.[2] 

As regards appointment criteria, the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary stipulate that persons selected must be “individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training of qualifications in law”.[3] 

The Statute of the Iberoamerican Judge specifies that the “process of selection and appointment” should take place through organs and processes predetermined in law that allow for the objective assessment and determination of the applicant’s professional knowledge, merits and suitability.[4] 

An appropriate method of appointment of judges is a prerequisite for the independence of the judiciary[5] and is a means of ensuring equal access to the profession. On the procedure for judicial appointments, the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary underscore the fact that “[a]ny method of judicial selection shall safeguard against judicial appointments for improper motives”.[6] 

In relation to the appointment and promotion of judges the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers have repeatedly recommended the use of bodies that are independent from the executive,[7] are plural and are composed mainly (if not solely) of judges and members of the legal profession;[8] and that apply transparent procedures.[9] 

It is widely accepted that when judges have security of tenure in office they are less vulnerable to pressure from those who can influence or make decisions about the renewal of their terms of office. Accordingly, international standards safeguarding the independence of judges prescribe that judges’ tenure must be guaranteed until a mandatory retirement age or expiry of the term of office.

As a necessary corollary to the guarantee of security of tenure judges nonetheless remain accountable throughout their terms of office. As discussed further in subsection 4 below, international standards specify that during their term of office, judges may be removed only in exceptional, strictly limited and well-defined circumstances provided for by law, involving incapacity or behaviour that renders them unfit to carry out the duties of their office, and following a fair procedure. 

Like judicial appointments, promotions within the judiciary must be based on objective factors, particularly ability, integrity and experience.[10]

The Statute of the Iberoamerican Judge, also states that “[t]he guarantee of non-removal of the judge extends to transfers and promotions which require the full consent of the interested person” (while also recognizing the existence of exceptional transfers in function of the necessities of service).[11]

 

The Constitution provides that the entry to the judicial career shall be through open public competitions and candidates should be selected on the basis of excellence and adequate qualifications.[12]

The former Organic Law of the Judicial Career enacted in 1998 provided that the judicial career started from category ‘C’, as judge of Municipal Court, and moved upward to category ‘A’.[13] The judicial categories[14] as established by the OLJC were:[15]

  • Scale ‘A’: Judges for Higher Tribunals;
  • Scale ‘B’: Judges for Courts of First Instance; and
  • Scale ‘C’: Judges for Municipal Courts.

The requisites to be appointed as judge in the scale ‘C’ were:[16]

  • At least three years of professional experience as a lawyer;
  • Having succeeded in the public completion with the higher qualification; and,
  • Having successfully completed the courses organized by the former Judicial Council.

The Constitution guarantees security of judicial tenure, in that judges can only be removed following procedures expressly established in the law.[17]

Under the Constitution, Justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the apex court, are appointed for a non-renewable term of 12 years.[18] During their tenure on the Tribunal, they may be removed only on grounds of serious misconduct (previously qualified by the Citizen Power), by a qualified 2/3s majority of the members of the National Assembly following a hearing.[19]

Additionally, the OLJC guaranteed security of tenure for judges, by specifying that they could only be removed on the basis of the grounds and following the procedure established in the OLJC.

In fact, however, the vast majority of judges in Venezuela are appointed on a temporary or provisional basis, without any guarantees regarding their tenure (also see sub-section 4, below). Only titular judges, who comprise approximately twenty per cent of the country’s judges, enjoy tenure.

In 2000, the Commission for the Functioning and Restructuring of the Judicial System (CFRJS) enacted the Norms for the Evaluation and Public Competitions for the Admission and Permanence in the Judiciary,[20] replacing the provisions for open public competitions and evaluations established by the OLJC.[21]

The Norms for Evaluation provide the requirements and procedures for conducting public tenders for judicial vacancies.[22] Under these norms the judges that were serving in office for one year or more should receive performance evaluations in order to continue their career in the judiciary.[23]

Contrary to these Norms for Evaluation, the Decree of Transitional Power established that all judicial positions should be open to public tenders.[24] This was interpreted to mean that all judges then in office were automatically dismissed and forced to reapply for their position. In addition, the evaluation procedure was never carried out and the only public competitions for judicial posts were held in the period of 2000 to 2003,[25] resulting in the appointment of only 200 judges (against a total of 1732 judicial posts open in that period).

In 2005, the Plenary of the STJ adopted the Norms of Evaluation and Open Public Competitions for the Entry into and Promotion within the Judicial Career, establishing the Special Programme for Regularization of Status.[26] Under this programme, all judges with temporary or provisional status would have to undergo an evaluation procedure to become titular judges.[27] However, in 2008 only 73 judges obtained tenure through the Special Programme.[28]

This stands in contrast with the 1451 judges who were appointed to posts without security of tenure in the same year.[29] In 2009, another 359 judges were appointed without an open public competition.[30]

The practice of appointing provisional, temporary and other judges without organizing an open, public competition and without granting them security of tenure continued in 2013; 1134 judges were appointed on these bases.[31]

As a result, approximately 80% of judges currently in office do not have guaranteed security of tenure and are at risk of being dismissed on a discretionary basis.[32]

 

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. 1.”Principle

    Persons selected for judicial office shall be individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training or qualifications in law. Any method of judicial selection shall safeguard against judicial appointments for improper motives. In the selection of judges, there shall be no discrimination against a person on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or status, except that a requirement, that a candidate for judicial office must be a national of the country concerned, shall not be considered discriminatory.

     of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary provides in part: “In the selection of judges, there shall be no discrimination against a person on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or status, except that a requirement, that a candidate for judicial office must be a national of the country concerned, shall not be considered discriminatory.”. See Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 32, Article 14: Right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial, UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/32 (2007), ”para.

    The requirement of competence, independence and impartiality of a tribunal in the sense of article 14, paragraph 1, is an absolute right that is not subject to any exception. The requirement of independence refers, in particular, to the procedure and qualifications for the appointment of judges, and guarantees relating to their security of tenure until a mandatory retirement age or the expiry of their term of office, where such exist, the conditions governing promotion, transfer, suspension and cessation of their functions, and the actual independence of the judiciary from political interference by the executive branch and legislature. States should take specific measures guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary, protecting judges from any form of political influence in their decision-making through the constitution or adoption of laws establishing clear procedures and objective criteria for the appointment, remuneration, tenure, promotion, suspension and dismissal of the members of the judiciary and disciplinary sanctions taken against them. A situation where the functions and competencies of the judiciary and the executive are not clearly distinguishable or where the latter is able to control or direct the former is incompatible with the notion of an independent tribunal. It is necessary to protect judges against conflicts of interest and intimidation. In order to safeguard their independence, the status of judges, including their term of office, their independence, security, adequate remuneration, conditions of service, pensions and the age of retirement shall be adequately secured by law.

     Also see ECtHR, Campbell and Fell v. UK (Application No. 7878/77), para. 78, where the Court indicates that “the manner of appointment of its members” forms part of the assessment of a bodies’ independence; ECtHR, Zand v. Austria (Application No. 7360/76), para. 81: to challenge a judge’s independence based on his or her manner of appointment, it would need to be shown that the practice of appointment “as a whole is unsatisfactory” or that “at least the establishment of the particular court deciding a case was influenced by improper motives”.
  2. 2. Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Report to the General Assembly, UN Doc. A/66/289 (2011), para. 22-33, 92; Statute of the Iberoamerican Judge, Adopted by the VI Iberoamerican Summit of President of Supreme Courts and Tribunals of Justice (2001), Article 13;

    In the selection of judges, there shall be no discrimination on grounds of race, sex, religion, ideology, social origin, economic situation or other which could violate the right to equality protecting the applicants. The nationality
    requirement of the concerned country shall not be considered as discriminatory.

    Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the United Kingdom, UN Doc. CCPR/CO/73/UK (2001), ”para.

    The Committee notes that, despite recent improvements, the proportions of women participating in public life, particularly at senior levels of the executive and judiciary and in Parliament, and also in the private sector, remain at low levels. 

    The State party should take necessary steps towards achieving an appropriate representation of women in these fields.

    Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on France, UN Doc. CCPR/C/FRA/CO/4, (2008), ”para.

    The Committee notes with concern that persons belonging to racial, ethnic or national minorities are rarely selected for representative bodies, including the National Assembly, and may occupy few positions in the police, the public administration and the judiciary. (articles 2, 25 and 26)

    The State party should facilitate the participation of persons who are members of minority groups in publicly elected bodies, including the National Assembly and local government. In particular, the State party should seek ways to increase the number of candidates belonging to minorities included in the list of political parties running for elections. The appointment of persons from minority backgrounds as members of the police, public administration and the judiciary, is also important to assure the representation of the needs of varied communities in the planning, design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes affecting them.

    Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Sudan, UN Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.85 (1997), ”para.

    The Committee is concerned that in appearance as well as in fact the judiciary is not truly independent, that many judges have not been selected primarily on the basis of their legal qualifications, that judges can be subject to pressure through a supervisory authority dominated by the Government, and that very few non-Muslims or women occupy judicial positions at all levels. Therefore: Measures should be taken to improve the independence and technical competence of the judiciary, including the appointment of qualified judges from among women and members of minorities. Training in human rights law should be given to all judges, law enforcement officers and members of the legal profession.

    Committee Against Torture, Conclusions and recommendations on Bahrain, UN Doc. CAT/C/CR/34/BHR (2005), ”para.

    Fully ensure the independence of the judiciary and include female judicial officials in its judicial system;

    Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, General Recommendation XXXI on the prevention of racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system, UN Doc. A/60/18, (pp. 98-108) (2005), ”para.

    To promote proper representation of persons belonging to racial and ethnic groups in the police and the system of justice;

    Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding Observations on Guatemala, UN Doc. CERD/C/GTM/CO/12-13 (2010), ”para.

    While noting the efforts made by the judiciary in the area of training, in the provision of interpreters, in the application of cultural expertise and in the appointment of bilingual staff to the courts to improve indigenous peoples’ access to the official system of justice, the Committee reiterates its concern about the problems experienced by indigenous peoples in gaining access to justice, particularly because the indigenous legal system is not recognized and applied and because of the lack of a sufficient number of interpreters and bilingual court officials who are knowledgeable about judicial proceedings. It regrets, in particular, that, when a number of judges were appointed to the Supreme Court in late 2009, no indigenous person was selected (art. 5 (a)).

    Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding Observations on Colombia, UN Doc. CERD/C/304/Add.76 (1999), ”para.

    It is noted that indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities are underrepresented in State institutions, including in the legislature, the judiciary, government ministries, the military, and the civil and diplomatic services.

  3. 3. UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, ”Principle

    Persons selected for judicial office shall be individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training or qualifications in law. Any method of judicial selection shall safeguard against judicial appointments for improper motives. In the selection of judges, there shall be no discrimination against a person on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or status, except that a requirement, that a candidate for judicial office must be a national of the country concerned, shall not be considered discriminatory.

  4. 4. Statute of the Iberoamerican Judge, Adopted by the VI Iberoamerican Summit of President of Supreme Courts and Tribunals of Justice (2001), Article 11-12.

    Art.11. Organ and process of selection of judges

    The processes of selection and appointment have to be realised through organs predetermined by the law, which also apply predetermined and public processes assessing objectively the professional knowledge and merits of the
    applicants.
    Art.12. Objectivity in the selection of judges
    The mechanisms of selection shall be adapted to the necessities of each country and shall be directed, in any case, to the objective determination of the applicants’ suitability.

  5. 5. Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 32, Article 14: Right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial, UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/32 (2007), ”para.

    The requirement of competence, independence and impartiality of a tribunal in the sense of article 14, paragraph 1, is an absolute right that is not subject to any exception. The requirement of independence refers, in particular, to the procedure and qualifications for the appointment of judges, and guarantees relating to their security of tenure until a mandatory retirement age or the expiry of their term of office, where such exist, the conditions governing promotion, transfer, suspension and cessation of their functions, and the actual independence of the judiciary from political interference by the executive branch and legislature. States should take specific measures guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary, protecting judges from any form of political influence in their decision-making through the constitution or adoption of laws establishing clear procedures and objective criteria for the appointment, remuneration, tenure, promotion, suspension and dismissal of the members of the judiciary and disciplinary sanctions taken against them. A situation where the functions and competencies of the judiciary and the executive are not clearly distinguishable or where the latter is able to control or direct the former is incompatible with the notion of an independent tribunal. It is necessary to protect judges against conflicts of interest and intimidation. In order to safeguard their independence, the status of judges, including their term of office, their independence, security, adequate remuneration, conditions of service, pensions and the age of retirement shall be adequately secured by law.

  6. 6. UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, ”Principle

    Persons selected for judicial office shall be individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training or qualifications in law. Any method of judicial selection shall safeguard against judicial appointments for improper motives. In the selection of judges, there shall be no discrimination against a person on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or status, except that a requirement, that a candidate for judicial office must be a national of the country concerned, shall not be considered discriminatory.

  7. 7. See e.g. Concluding Observations on the Congo, CCPR/C/79/Add.118, ”para.

    The Committee expresses its concern at the attacks on the independence of the judiciary, in violation of article 14, paragraph 1, of the Covenant. It draws attention to the fact that such independence is limited owing to the lack of any independent mechanism responsible for the recruitment and discipline of judges, and to the many pressures and influences, including those of the executive branch, to which judges are subjected.

    The State party should take the appropriate steps to ensure the independence of the judiciary, in particular by amending the rules concerning the composition and operation of the Supreme Council of Justice and its effective establishment. The Committee considers that particular attention should be given to the training of judges and to the system governing their recruitment and discipline, in order to free them from political, financial and other pressures, ensure their security of tenure and enable them to render justice promptly and impartially. It invites the State party to adopt effective measures to that end and to take the appropriate steps to ensure that more judges are given adequate training.

    Concluding Observations on Liechtenstein, CCPR/CO/81/LIE, ”para.

    While noting that the constitutional amendments of 2003 sought to clarify the system of appointment and tenure of judges, the Committee is concerned about some elements of the new mechanism which may not be compatible with the principle of the independence of the judiciary (art. 14).  

    The State party should consider amending the mechanism for the appointment of judges to secure tenure, so as to guarantee fully the principle of the independence of the judiciary. The elements to be reviewed should include: the criteria for the appointment of members to the selecting body, the casting vote of the Princely House and the limited nature of tenure.

    Concluding Observations on Tajikistan, CCPR/CO/84/TJK, ”para.

    The Committee is concerned about the apparent lack of independence of the judiciary, as reflected in the process of appointment and dismissal of judges as well as in their economic status (art. 14, para. 1). The State party should guarantee the full independence and impartiality of the judiciary by establishing an independent body charged with the responsibility of appointing, promoting and disciplining judges at all levels and by remunerating judges with due regard for the responsibilities and the nature of their office. 

    Concluding Observations on Honduras, CCPR/C/HND/CO/1 (2006), ”para.

    The Committee notes the State party’s implementation of selection procedures for judges in accordance with the Judicial Council Act. It is concerned, however, at the failure to establish an independent body to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and to supervise the appointment, promotion and regulation of the profession (article 14 of the Covenant). The State party should take effective action to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, including the prompt establishment of an independent body to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and to supervise the appointment, promotion and regulation of the profession.

    Concluding Observations on Azerbaijan, UN Doc. CCPR/C/AZE/CO/3 (2009), ”para.

    The Committee remains concerned that, despite the reforms undertaken and the progress made during the reporting period, through, inter alia, the amendments in the Judges Act, the adoption of the Judicial Council Act, the establishment of the statute of the Judges’ Selection Committee, the Code of Ethics for Judges, the State party’s judiciary does not appear to be fully independent from the executive branch or from political pressure. The Committee is also concerned about reports that corruption within the judiciary remains a problem (art. 14). 

    The State party should strengthen its efforts to ensure a fully independent judiciary. Given the important prerogatives of the Judicial Council, in particular regarding selection, promotion, and disciplining of members of the judiciary, the State party should ensure that the Judicial Council, in its composition and work, is fully independent from the executive so as to create conditions ensuring full independence of the judiciary. The State party should increase efforts to combat corruption, in particular within its judiciary, by investigating promptly and thoroughly all incidents of suspected corruption. If corruption is established, the officials concerned should face criminal and not only disciplinary sanctions.

    Human Rights Committee,
    Concluding Observations on Kosovo (Serbia), UN Doc. CCPR/C/UNK/CO/1 (2006), ”para.

    The Committee is concerned about the absence of adequate guarantees for the independence of international judges and prosecutors. It is concerned about the low remuneration of local judges and prosecutors, the low representation of ethnic minorities in the judiciary, the excessive length of civil court proceedings and court backlogs and the frequent failure to enforce judgements (art. 14). UNMIK, in cooperation with PISG as required, should establish independent procedures for the recruitment, appointment and discipline of international judges and prosecutors, ensure adequate terms and conditions for local judges and prosecutors whereby they are shielded from corruption, increase the representation of ethnic minorities in the judiciary, assign additional judges to courts with case backlogs and ensure enforcement of judgements without delay.

    Also see
    Draft Universal Declaration on the Independence of Justice (also known as the Singhvi Declaration), ”Article

    (a) The process and standards of judicial selection shall give due consideration to ensuring a fair reflection by the judiciary of the society in all its aspects. 

    (b) Any methods of judicial selection shall scrupulously safeguard against judicial appointments for improper motives. 

    (c) Participation in judicial appointments by the Executive or the Legislature or the general electorate is consistent with judicial independence so far as such participation is not vitiated by and is scrupulously safeguarded against improper motives and methods. To secure the most suitable appointments from the point of view of professional ability and integrity and to safeguard individual independence, integrity and endeavour shall be made, in so far as possible, to provide for consultation with members of the judiciary and the legal profession in making judicial appointments or to provide appointments or recommendations for appointments to be made by a body in which members of the judiciary and the legal profession participate effectively.

    Universal Charter of the Judge, Approved by the International Association of Judges on 17 November 1999, ”Article

    The selection and each appointment of a judge must be carried out according to objective and transparent criteria based on proper professional qualification. Where this is not ensured in other ways, that are rooted in established and proven tradition, selection should be carried out by an independent body, that include substantial judicial representation.

  8. 8. Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Report to the Human Rights Council, UN Doc. A/HRC/11/41 (2009), ”para.

    28. The composition of this body matters greatly to judicial independence as it is required to act in an objective, fair and independent manner when selecting judges. While a genuinely plural composition of this body is recommended with legislators, lawyers, academicians and other interested parties being represented in a balanced way, in many cases it is important that judges constitute the majority of the body so as to avoid any political or other external interference. In the Special Rapporteur’s view, if the body is composed primarily of political representatives there is always a risk that these “independent bodies” might become merely formal or legal rubber-stamping organs behind which the Government exerts its influence indirectly.

    29. In order to ensure that such a body is apt to select judges in an objective, fair and independent manner, the judiciary and other parties directly linked with the justice system must have a substantial say with respect to selecting and appointing the members of such a body. According to some regional standards, members of the independent body should be selected by the judiciary.

    See also International Commission of Jurists, International principles on the independence and accountability of judges, lawyers and prosecutors – Practitioners’ guide, no. 1 (2007), pp. 45-48.
  9. 9. Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Report to the Human Rights Council, UN Doc. A/HRC/11/41 (2009), ”para.

    In this connection the Special Rapporteur refers to the appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court of Ecuador in 2005, which were made in accordance with his recommendations,31 in particular those referring to objective criteria to select candidates with a view to their independence, competencies and integrity. This ensured the transparency of the selection and appointment processes. Furthermore, for the first time in Ecuador’s history, public hearings were held at which backgrounds of the nominees could be openly scrutinized. This experience was qualified by the United Nations as a major example of good practices.

    See Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers,
    Preliminary Report to the Human Rights Commission on a mission to Ecuador, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2005/60/Add.4 (2005), ”para.
    5. Various options for resolving the crisis are being discussed in Ecuador. Rather than expressing a view on the various alternatives, the Special Rapporteur believes that, in keeping with United Nations standards, the country should immediately arrive at a formula to govern the appointment of a Supreme Court which will include the following elements:… (d) Machinery to ensure transparency in the selection of judges and enable members of the public to be aware of the candidates and express their opinions about them.

  10. 10. UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, ”Principle

    Promotion of judges, wherever such a system exists, should be based on objective factors, in particular ability, integrity and experience.

    Draft Universal Declaration on the Independence of Justice (also known as the Singhvi Declaration), ”Article

    Promotion of a judge shall be based on an objective assessment of the judge’s integrity, independence, professional competence, experience, humanity and commitment to uphold the rule of law. No promotions shall be made from an improper motive.

  11. 11. Statute of the Iberoamerican Judge, Adopted by the VI Iberoamerican Summit of President of Supreme Courts and Tribunals of Justice (2001), Article 16.

    The guarantee of non-removal of the judge extends to transfers and promotions which require the full consent of the interested person. Exceptionally, it may be established in the law the possibility of a judge’s transfer or promotion for necessities of the service or modification of the judicial organisation or temporary assignment of this one, for the same reasons, in order to reinforce another jurisdictional body. In such cases, in which the general interest prevails over the personal one, the respect of the due process shall be guaranteed.

  12. 12. Constitution, Article 255.
    Appointment to a judicial position and the promotion of judges shall be carried out by means of public competitions to ensure the capability and excellence of the participants, with selection by the juries of the judicial circuits, in such manner and on such terms as may be established by law. The appointment and swearing in of judges shall be the responsibility of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. Citizen participation in the process of selecting and designating judges shall be guaranteed by law. Judges shall be removed or suspended from office only through the procedures expressly provided for by law.
    Measures shall be taken by law to promote the professionalism of judges, and the universities shall cooperate to this end, organizing their corresponding law schools curricula to specialized studies in judicial practice.
    Judges are personally liable, on such terms as may be determined by law, for unjustified omissions, delay or errors, for substantial failure to observe the rules of procedure, for denial of justice, for partiality and for the criminal offenses of bribery and prevarication in office.
  13. 13. Law of the Judicial Career, Article 10.
  14. 14. Law of the Judicial Career, Article 7.
  15. 15. Law of the Judicial Career, Article 9.
  16. 16. Law of the Judicial Career, Article 10.
  17. 17. Constitution, Article 255.
    Appointment to a judicial position and the promotion of judges shall be carried out by means of public competitions to ensure the capability and excellence of the participants, with selection by the juries of the judicial circuits, in such manner and on such terms as may be established by law. The appointment and swearing in of judges shall be the responsibility of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. Citizen participation in the process of selecting and designating judges shall be guaranteed by law. Judges shall be removed or suspended from office only through the procedures expressly provided for by law.
    Measures shall be taken by law to promote the professionalism of judges, and the universities shall cooperate to this end, organizing their corresponding law schools curricula to specialized studies in judicial practice.
    Judges are personally liable, on such terms as may be determined by law, for unjustified omissions, delay or errors, for substantial failure to observe the rules of procedure, for denial of justice, for partiality and for the criminal offenses of bribery and prevarication in office.
  18. 18. Constitution, Article 264.
  19. 19. Constitution, Article 265.
  20. 20. Norms of Evaluation and Open Public Competitions for the Admission and Permanence in the Judiciary.
  21. 21. Norms of Evaluation and Open Public Competitions for the Admission and Permanence in the Judiciary, Article 40.
  22. 22. Norms of Evaluation and Open Public Competitions for the Admission and Permanence in the Judiciary, Article 13.
  23. 23. Norms of Evaluation and Open Public Competitions for the Admission and Permanence in the Judiciary, Article 4.
  24. 24. Decree of Transitional Power, Article 25.
  25. 25. International Commission of Jurists, Strengthening the Rule of Law in Venezuela, Executive Summary (May 2014), p. 2.
  26. 26. Norms of Evaluation and Open Public Competitions for the Admission and Permanence in the Judiciary, Article 46.
  27. 27. Norms of Evaluation and Open Public Competitions for the Admission and Permanence in the Judiciary, Article 46.
  28. 28. Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela, OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 54, para. 214.

    At the hearing on the situation of the Venezuelan judiciary held during its 134th period of sessions, the Commission was told that between January 2, 2008, and December 31, 2008, a total of 73 judges had acquired regular status through the Special Program for the Regularization of Status. The Inter‐American Court noted that under this Special Program, vacancies have been filled without affording individuals not already part of the judiciary the opportunity to compete for positions against the provisional judges already serving. Although the program does involve an assessment of suitability, the procedure grants the stability of tenure to judges who were initially
    appointed on a totally discretionary basis. (footnotes omitted)

  29. 29. Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela, OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 54, para. 209.

    This information indicates that in 2008 alone, a total of 1,451 judges other than regular judges were appointed. Of those, 12% were provisional, 63% were temporary, and 24% were interim. Thus, not one of the 1,451 non‐regular judges appointed in 2008 was appointed through the open public competition required by Article 255 of the Venezuelan Constitution. Consequently, all of those judges are freely appointed and removable.

  30. 30. Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela, OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 54, para. 210.

    Additionally, information received by the Commission emphasizes that between January and September 2009 alone, a total of 359 judges were appointed without an open public competition, including 136 temporary judges, 138 interim judges, 59 provisional judges, 2 tenured judges and 24 judges from other categories. All of these judges are freely appointed and removable. (footnote omitted)

  31. 31. PROVEA, Annual Report 2013, p. 344. Last accessed 24 November 2014.
  32. 32. International Commission of Jurists, Strengthening the Rule of Law in Venezuela (May 2014), p. 16.
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