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Venezuela: Legal education

The availability and provision of quality legal education and continuing education is essential to ensuring that legal professionals are competent and able to play their essential role in contributing to ensuring respect for the rule of law, the protection and promotion of human rights and the fair administration of justice.

The Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary provide that persons selected for judicial office must have “appropriate training or qualifications in law”.[1] Furthermore, the Singhvi Declaration places a duty on judges to “keep themselves informed about international conventions and other instruments establishing human rights norms”.[2] The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct add that “a judge shall take reasonable steps to maintain and enhance the judge’s knowledge, skills and personal qualities necessary for the proper performance of judicial duties, taking advantage for this purpose of the training and other facilities which should be made available, under judicial control”.[3] The Statute of the Iberoamerican Judge states that while on-going training can be obligatory or voluntary for a judge, “it must be marked by an obligatory nature in case of promotion, transfer involving a change of jurisdiction, important legal reforms and other circumstances specifically qualified”.[4] For the judge, in-service training constitutes a “right and a duty”, and for the judiciary a “responsibility”.[5]

The Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors likewise specify they shall be individuals “with appropriate training and qualifications”.[6] States must ensure that they meet this criterion and that prosecutors be made aware of the ethical duties of their office, of the constitutional and statutory protections for the rights of the suspect and the victim, and of human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law.[7] Prosecutors have a duty to “keep themselves well-informed and abreast of legal developments”.[8] 

The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers place a duty on governments, professional associations of lawyers and educational institutions to ensure that lawyers have appropriate education and training and are aware of lawyers’ ethical duties and of human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law.[9] Further, they should take special measures to provide opportunities and ensure needs-appropriate training for law students from groups whose needs for legal services are not consistently met, particularly including those who have distinct cultures, traditions or languages or have been the victims of past discrimination.[10] Legal education must be open to all persons with requisite qualifications and no one shall be denied such opportunity by reason of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national, linguistic or social origin, property, income, birth or status.[11] 

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers has recommended that magistrates, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers should be requested to take courses on international human rights law. She also recommended that on-going legal education should be mandatory at all levels.[12] The Singhvi Declaration states that “continuing legal education shall be available to judges”.[13]

 

In Venezuela, law is taught at university, at one of the 42 authorized Law Schools.[14] The students graduating from the Faculty of Law receive the title of “Lawyer” upon successful completion of a five-year programme of study.[15] In theory, an individual must have obtained this title in order to be authorized to practice law in Venezuela.

As noted above in Section C, subsection 4, in 2005 the Government of Venezuela opened the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (BUV), authorized to teach the programme of Legal Studies.[16] This programme at the BUV is different from the programme of Law taught in other national and international law schools, as it excludes certain essential topics for lawyers (i.e. civil law, civil and criminal procedural law). Accordingly, the Ministry of Popular Power for University Education decided that the Legal Studies programme graduates would receive the title of “Bachelor of Laws” instead of “Lawyer”.[17]

However, the Bolivarian University of Venezuela in practice bestows the title of Lawyer upon their graduate students. In 2010, President Chávez announced the creation of the “Mission of Socialist Justice”, offering secure postgraduate studies for all of the BUV’s graduates in the School of Judges and guaranteeing their practice and further exercise of their profession in the Office of the Attorney General.[18]

 

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  1. 1. 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.

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

    Judges shall keep themselves informed about international conventions and other instruments establishing human rights norms, and shall seek to implement them as far as feasible, within the limits set by their national constitutions and laws.

    See Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, ”Value

    Competence and diligence are prerequisites to the due performance of judicial office.

    Competence and diligence, ”6.4.”

    A judge shall keep himself or herself informed about relevant developments of international law, including international conventions and other instruments establishing human rights norms.

  3. 3. Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, ”Value

    Competence and diligence are prerequisites to the due performance of judicial office.

    Competence and diligence, ”6.3.”

    A judge shall take reasonable steps to maintain and enhance the judge’s knowledge, skills and personal qualities necessary for the proper performance of judicial duties, taking advantage for this purpose of the training and other facilities which should be made available, under judicial control, to judges.

  4. 4. Statute of the Iberoamerican Judge, Adopted by the VI Iberoamerican Summit of President of Supreme Courts and Tribunals of Justice (2001), Article 28.

    The ongoing training can be conceived as obligatory or voluntary for the judge, but it must be marked by an obligatory nature in case of promotion, transfer involving a change of jurisdiction, important legal reforms and other circumstances specially qualified.

  5. 5. Statute of the Iberoamerican Judge, Adopted by the VI Iberoamerican Summit of President of Supreme Courts and Tribunals of Justice (2001), Article 27.

    The ongoing or in-service training constitutes a right and a duty for the judge, and a responsibility for the Judiciary, which shall facilitate it free of charge.

  6. 6. UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, ”Guideline

    Persons selected as prosecutors shall be individuals of integrity and ability, with appropriate training and qualifications.

  7. 7. UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, ”Guideline

    States shall ensure that…

    (b) Prosecutors have appropriate education and training and should be made aware of the ideals and ethical duties of their office, of the constitutional and statutory protections for the rights of the suspect and the victim, and of human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law.

  8. 8. International Association of Prosecutors, Standards of Professional Responsibility and Statement of the Essential Duties and Rights of Prosecutors, ”Article

    Prosecutors shall: at all times maintain the honour and dignity of their profession; always conduct themselves professionally, in accordance with the law and the rules and ethics of their profession; at all times exercise the highest standards of integrity and care; keep themselves well-informed and abreast of relevant legal developments; strive to be, and to be seen to be, consistent, independent and impartial; always protect an accused person’s right to a fair trial, and in particular ensure that evidence favourable to the accused is disclosed in accordance with the law or the requirements of a fair trial; always serve and protect the public interest; respect, protect and uphold the universal concept of human dignity and human rights.

  9. 9. UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, ”Principle

    Governments, professional associations of lawyers and educational institutions shall ensure that lawyers have appropriate education and training and be made aware of the ideals and ethical duties of the lawyer and of human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law.

     International Bar Association (IBA) Standards for the Independence of the Legal Profession, ”Standards

    2. Legal education shall be open to all persons with requisite qualifications and no one shall be denied such opportunity by reason of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, status or physical disability.

    3. Legal education shall be designed to promote knowledge and understanding of the role and the skills required in practising as a lawyer, including awareness of the legal and ethical duties of a lawyer and of the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognised within the given jurisdiction and by international law.

    4. Programmes of legal education shall have regard to the social responsibilities of the lawyer, including co-operation in providing legal services to the needy and the promotion and defence of legal rights of whatever nature whether economic, social, cultural, civil and political and specially rights of such nature in the process of development.

  10. 10. UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, ”Principle

    In countries where there exist groups, communities or regions whose needs for legal services are not met, particularly where such groups have distinct cultures, traditions or languages or have been the victims of past discrimination, Governments, professional associations of lawyers and educational institutions should take special measures to provide opportunities for candidates from these groups to enter the legal profession and should ensure that they receive training appropriate to the needs of their groups.

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

    Legal education and entry into the legal profession shall be open to all persons with requisite qualifications and no one shall be denied such opportunity by reason of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national, linguistic or social origin, property, income, birth or status.

  12. 12. Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Advance report on the global thematic study on human rights education and training of legal professionals, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/20 (2012), ”para.

    Magistrates, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers should be requested to take courses on international human rights law. Ongoing legal education should be mandatory for judges, magistrates, prosecutors, public legal defenders and lawyers at all levels. Law and political and social sciences students could also be encouraged to follow such courses during their education.

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

    Continuing education shall be available to judges.

  14. 14. See: http://loeu.opsu.gob.ve/vistas/carreras/consultar.php?id=137.
  15. 15. See: http://www.curricular.info/carreras/derecho.html and http://w2.ucab.edu.ve/servicios-al-estudiante.html.
  16. 16. See: http://www.ubv.edu.ve/index.php/p-formacion-de-grado/6-estudios-juridicos.
  17. 17. See: http://loeu.opsu.gob.ve/vistas/carreras/consultar.php?id=724.
  18. 18. Ocarina Espinoza in El Universal (16 January 2010), ‘Chávez propone la creación de la Misión Justicia Socialista’. Available at: http://www.eluniversal.com/2010/01/16/pol_ava_chavez-propone-la-cr_16A3298331 (Accessed 21 August 2014).
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