Prosecutors play a crucial role in the administration of justice, which they must fulfil fairly, consistently and expeditiously in accordance with the law. International standards underscore that they must respect and protect human dignity and uphold human rights.
Prosecutors perform an active role in criminal proceedings, including the institution of prosecution and, where authorized by law or consistent with local practice, in the investigation of crime, supervision over the legality of such investigations, supervision of the execution of court decisions and the exercise of other functions as representatives of the public interest. These functions shall be carried out separately from judicial functions.
Every prosecutor must fulfil his or her professional duties in an independent, impartial and objective manner, without discrimination of any kind, and as essential agents of the criminal justice system, maintain the honour and duty of their profession.
Prosecutors may not initiate of continue prosecution if an impartial investigation shows the charge to be unfounded. Further, they must give due attention to the prosecution of crimes committed by public officials, in particular corruption, abuse of power, grave violations of human rights and other crimes recognized by international law. If prosecutors come into possession of evidence that they know or believe on reasonable grounds was obtained through recourse to unlawful methods that constitute a grave violation of the suspect’s human rights, they must refuse to use such evidence against anyone other than those who used such methods or inform the Court accordingly and take all necessary steps to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
The Constitution of Venezuela establishes the duty of the State to investigate and punish any violation of human rights. It also provides that the Attorney General’s Office and the bodies in charge of investigating criminal offences are part of the “Justice System” in the country. The Constitution also establishes that the Attorney General of the Republic is the prosecutorial services’ highest authority, and that the Attorney General’s Office has the duty to guarantee the protection of human rights in every judicial proceeding, and to order and direct the investigation of criminal offences within the national territory.
- 1. UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, Guidelines 12-13.
12. Prosecutors shall, in accordance with the law, perform their duties fairly, consistently and expeditiously, and respect and protect human dignity and uphold human rights, thus contributing to ensuring due process and the smooth functioning of the criminal justice system.
13. In the performance of their duties, prosecutors shall:
(a) Carry out their functions impartially and avoid all political, social, religious, racial, cultural, sexual or any other kind of discrimination;
(b) Protect the public interest, act with objectivity, take proper account of the position of the suspect and the victim, and pay attention to all relevant circumstances, irrespective of whether they are to the advantage or disadvantage of the suspect;
(c) Keep matters in their possession confidential, unless the performance of duty or the needs of justice require otherwise;
(d) Consider the views and concerns of victims when their personal interests are affected and ensure that victims are informed of their rights in accordance with the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power
- 2. UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, Guideline 11.
Prosecutors shall perform an active role in criminal proceedings, including institution of prosecution and, where authorized by law or consistent with local practice, in the investigation of crime, supervision over the legality of these investigations, supervision of the execution of court decisions and the exercise of other functions as representatives of the public interest.
- 3. UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, Guidelines 14-16.
14. Prosecutors shall not initiate or continue prosecution, or shall make every effort to stay proceedings, when an impartial investigation shows the charge to be unfounded.
15. Prosecutors shall give due attention to the prosecution of crimes committed by public officials, particularly corruption, abuse of power, grave violations of human rights and other crimes recognized by international law and, where authorized by law or consistent with local practice, the investigation of such offences.
16. When prosecutors come into possession of evidence against suspects that they know or believe on reasonable grounds was obtained through recourse to unlawful methods, which constitute a grave violation of the suspect’s human rights, especially involving torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or other abuses of human rights, they shall refuse to use such evidence against anyone other than those who used such methods, or inform the Court accordingly, and shall take all necessary steps to ensure that those responsible for using such methods are brought to justice.
- 4. Constitution, 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.
- 5. Constitution, Article 253.
The power to administer justice emanates from the citizens and is exercised in the name of the Republic by authority of law.
The organs comprising the Judicial Power are charged with dealing with all cases and matters within their competence, through such procedures as may be determined by the laws, and with carrying out or causing the execution of their judgments.
The justice system consists of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, such other courts as may be determined by law, the Office of Public Prosecutions, the Public Defender’s Office, criminal investigation organs, judicial assistants and officials, the penitentiary system, alternative means of justice, citizens participating in the administration of justice in accordance with law and attorneys at law admitted to practice.
- 6. Constitution, Article 284.
The Office of Public Prosecutions shall be under the direction and responsibility of the General Prosecutor of the Republic, who shall perform his functions directly, with the assistance of such officials as may be determined by law.
To be General Prosecutor of the Republic, a person must meet the same eligibility requirements that apply to justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. The General Prosecutor of the Republic shall be designated for a seven year term.
- 7. Constitution, Article 285.
The following are functions of the Office of Public Prosecutions:
- In judicial proceedings, to guarantee respect for constitutional rights and guarantees, as well as those deriving from international treaties, agreements and conventions signed by the Republic.
- To guarantee the speedy trail of the judicial process, the right to previous trial and a due process.
- To order and direct criminal investigation of the perpetration of punishable acts, with a view to establishing that the same were committed, with all circumstances that may be relevant to stating the offense and establishing the responsibility of the perpetrators and other participants, as well as to secure custody of the objects actively and passively concerned with the perpetration of the offense.
- To conduct on behalf of the State criminal prosecutions in those cases in which no initiative on the part of a party is required in order to initiate or continue such prosecution, with the exceptions established by law.
- To file any appropriate actions to hold liable public officials who have incurred civil, labor, military, criminal, administrative or disciplinary liability the course of their official duties.
- Any other functions that may be assigned to this office by the Constitution and by law.