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Venezuela: Accountability of the prosecutorial services

Like all members of the legal profession, Prosecutors must carry out their roles with integrity and in accordance with the law and in a manner that is consistent with human rights and established standards of prosecutorial conduct. And like other legal professionals Prosecutors must be accountable for professional misconduct. These are imperatives for upholding the integrity of the office of the Prosecutor as well as the legal system and respect for the rule of law.

Disciplinary proceedings must guarantee an objective evaluation and decision.

Disciplinary offences must be defined in law or lawful regulations and complaints alleging misconduct must be processed expeditiously and fairly in the context of fair procedures before an independent and impartial body. The prosecutor whose professional conduct is in question must be afforded a fair hearing and the decision must be based on established standards of professional conduct, and subject to independent review.[1]

 

The Organic Law of the Office of the Public Prosecutor provides the disciplinary proceedings and grounds for the removal of prosecutors.[2] The disciplinary sanctions applied to prosecutors are:[3]

  • Letters of Caution;
  • Verbal Warnings;
  • Written Warnings;
  • Temporary suspension; and,
  • Dismissal.

A prosecutor found guilty of prevarication or collusion will be dismissed and not allowed to enter the prosecutorial career again, under any circumstance.[4]

Sanctions may only be imposed through disciplinary proceedings[5] that follow due process of law.[6] Even though the Organic Law describes the procedure to be followed for sanctioning prosecutors,[7] it also mentions that provisions to carry out disciplinary proceedings shall be specified by the Statute of the Staff of the Office of the Public Prosecutor.[8]

The Statute provides that the disciplinary procedure it contains is only applicable to prosecutors with security of tenure.[9] Therefore, the vast majority of prosecutors, who have been appointed to provisional posts and can be removed at will by the Attorney General, do not enjoy the guarantees and procedural safeguards provided for in the Law and the Statute.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. 1. UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, [expand title=”Guideline 21-22;”]

    21. Disciplinary offences of prosecutors shall be based on law or lawful regulations. Complaints against prosecutors which allege that they acted in a manner clearly out of the range of professional standards shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Prosecutors shall have the right to a fair hearing. The decision shall be subject to independent review.

    22. Disciplinary proceedings against prosecutors shall guarantee an objective evaluation and decision. They shall be determined in accordance with the law, the code of professional conduct and other established standards and ethics and in the light of the present Guidelines.

    [/expand] International Association of Prosecutors, Standards of Professional Responsibility and Statement of the Essential Duties and Rights of Prosecutors, [expand title=”Article 6(f)-(g).”]

    In order to ensure that prosecutors are able to carry out their professional responsibilities independently and in accordance with these standards, prosecutors should be protected against arbitrary action by governments. In general they should be entitled: … (f) to expeditious and fair hearings, based on law or legal regulations, where disciplinary steps are necessitated by complaints alleging action outside the range of proper professional standards; (g) to objective evaluation and decisions in disciplinary hearings;

    [/expand]
  2. 2. Organic Law of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Articles 117-119.
  3. 3. Organic Law of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Article 118.
  4. 4. Organic Law of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Article 118.
  5. 5. Organic Law of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Article 119.
  6. 6. Organic Law of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Article 117.
  7. 7. Organic Law of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Article 119.
  8. 8. Organic Law of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Article 118.
  9. 9. Resolution of the Attorney General No. 60, Official Gazette No. 36.654, 4 March 1999.
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