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Venezuela [1] [print]

Last edited: December 2005

 

Summary and Analysis

Venezuela ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] in August of 1990 when it passed the Ley Aprobatoria de la Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño (Law Approving the Convention on the Rights of the Child).  It is unclear how much domestic legal authority the CRC had in Venezuela at the time.  In any case, the government drafted a new Constitution in 1999 which gave human rights treaties constitutional status and reinforced the authority of the CRC through a specific reference.[2]  In 1998, Venezuela repealed the Ley Tutelar de Menores (Protective Law of Minors), which contained elements that were contradictory to the CRC, and promulgated the Ley Orgánica para la Protección del Niño y del Adolescente [LOPNA] (Organic Law for the Protection of the Child and Adolescent), which was in line with the principles of the Convention.  As an organic law, LOPNA has more legal authority than ordinary laws but less authority than the Constitution.

Venezuela has a formal child protection system in which protective proceedings are decided by municipal Tribunals of the Protection of the Child and Adolescent and may be appealed in courts.  Offices of the Defense of the Child and Adolescent provide legal assistance, and municipal “Attention Agencies” investigate reports of child maltreatment or neglect.  Also, the administrative Councils on the Rights of the Child and Adolescent and Councils of Protection for the Child and Adolescent exist on national, regional, and municipal levels.

While the Protective Law of Minors contained no provision for children to participate in protective proceedings, LOPNA mandates that all children have the right to express their views directly in protection proceedings.  Furthermore, in concluding the best interests of the child, all officials must consider the views of the child.  Legislation also provides that children shall be offered free legal assistance, however it is not expressly stated that representatives must convey the wishes of their child clients.

Although the U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report states that Venezuela's child protection system appears to be slow but effective in responding to reports of child maltreatment and neglect, the report goes on to say that reports of abuse were rare “due to a fear of entanglement with the authorities and societal ingrained attitudes regarding family privacy.”[3]  Furthermore, the State Department reported that the facilities for housing children removed from the family environment were “inadequate and had poorly trained staff.”[4]  UNICEF and Cecodap, another NGO working with children, estimated that 15,000 children were living on the streets in Venezuela.[5]  After the introduction of curfew laws, reform schools were filled and many curfew-violators were housed in juvenile detention centers that the State Department deemed inadequate.[6]  It should be noted that we were not able to contact any officials in Venezuela to confirm this report.

 

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

Original Text

International Law

Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño,[7] ratificada 28 agosto 1990

Artículo 12

1. Los Estados Partes garantizarán al niño que esté en condiciones de formarse un juicio propio el derecho de expresar su opinión libremente en todos los asuntos que afectan al niño, teniéndose debidamente en cuenta las opiniones del niño, en función de la edad y madurez del niño.

2. Con tal fin, se dará en particular al niño oportunidad de ser escuchado, en todo procedimiento judicial o administrativo que afecte al niño, ya sea directamente o por medio de un representante o de un órgano apropiado, en consonancia con las normas de procedimiento de la ley nacional.

Organic Law

Ley Orgánica para la Protección del Niño y del Adolescente[8]

Artículo 8°. - Interés Superior del Niño.

El Interés Superior del Niño es un principio de interpretación y aplicación de esta Ley, el cual es de obligatorio cumplimiento en la toma de todas las decisiones concernientes a los niños y adolescentes. Este principio está dirigido a asegurar el desarrollo integral de los niños y adolescentes, así como el disfrute pleno y efectivo de sus derechos y garantías.

Parágrafo Primero: Para determinar el interés superior del niño en una situación concreta se debe apreciar:

a)   La opinión de los niños y adolescentes,

b)   La necesidad de equilibrio entre los derechos y garantías de los niños y adolescentes y sus deberes;

c)   La necesidad de equilibrio entre las exigencias del bien común y los derechos y garantías del niño o adolescente;

d)   La necesidad de equilibrio entre los derechos de las demás personas y los derechos y garantías del niño o adolescente;

e)   La condición especifica de los niños y adolescentes como personas en desarrollo.

Parágrafo Segundo: En aplicación del Interés Superior del Niño, cuando exista conflicto entre los derechos e intereses de los niños y adolescentes frente a otros derechos e intereses igualmente legítimos, prevalecerán los primeros.

Artículo 80°. - Derecho a Opinar y a Ser Oído.

Todos los niños y adolescentes tienen derecho a:

a) Expresar libremente su opinión en los asuntos en que tengan interés;

b) Que sus opiniones sean tomadas en cuenta en función de su desarrollo.

Este derecho se extiende a todos los ámbitos en que se desenvuelven los niños y adolescentes, entre ellos: al ámbito estatal, familiar, comunitario, social, escolar, científico, cultural, deportivo y recreacional.

Parágrafo Primero: Se garantiza a todos los niños y adolescentes el ejercicio personal y directo de este derecho, especialmente en todo procedimiento administrativo o judicial que conduzca a una decisión que afecte sus derechos, garantías e intereses, sin más limites que los derivados de su interés superior.

Parágrafo Segundo: En los procedimientos administrativos o judiciales, la comparecencia del niño o adolescente se realizará de la forma más adecuada a su situación personal y desarrollo. En los casos de niños y adolescentes con necesidades especiales se debe garantizar la asistencia de personas que, por su profesión o relación especial de confianza, puedan transmitir objetivamente su opinión.

Parágrafo Tercero: Cuando el ejercicio personal de este derecho no resulte conveniente al interés superior del niño, éste se ejercerá por medio de sus padres, representantes o responsables, siempre que no sean parte interesada ni tengan intereses contrapuestos a los del niño o adolescente, o a través de otras personas que, por su profesión o relación especial de confianza puedan transmitir objetivamente su opinión.

Parágrafo Cuarto: La opinión del niño o adolescente sólo será vinculante cuando la Ley así lo establezca. Nadie puede constreñir a los niños y adolescentes a expresar su opinión, especialmente en los procedimientos administrativos y judiciales.

Artículo 87°. - Derecho a la Justicia.

Todos los niños y adolescentes tienen derecho de acudir ante un tribunal competente, independiente e imparcial, para la defensa de sus derechos e intereses y a que éste decida sobre su petición dentro de los lapsos legales. Todos los adolescentes tienen plena capacidad de ejercer directa y personalmente este derecho.

Para el ejercicio de este derecho, el Estado garantiza asistencia y representación jurídica gratuita a los niños y adolescentes que carezcan de medios económicos suficientes.

 

Translations[9]

International Law

Convention on the Rights of the Child,[10] ratified Aug. 28, 1990

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Organic Law

Organic Law of the Protection of the Child and the Adolescent[11] (1998)

Article 8.- Best Interest of the Child.

The Best Interest of the Child is a principle of interpretation and application of this law, which is obligatory to fulfill in the making of all decisions concerning children and adolescents.  This principle is directed to assure the integral development of children and adolescents, as well as the full and effective enjoyment of their rights and guarantees.

First Paragraph: In order to determine the best interest of the child in a concrete situation one must appraise:

a)      The opinion of the children and adolescents;

b)      The necessity to balance the rights and guarantees of the children and adolescents and their responsibilities;

c)      The necessity to balance the exigency of the common good and the rights and guarantees of the child or adolescent;

d)     The necessity to balance the rights of other people and the rights and guarantees of the child or adolescent;

e)      The specific condition of the children and adolescents as developing persons.

Second Paragraph: In the application of the Best Interest of the Child, when conflict exists between the rights and interests of the children and adolescents and equally legitimate interests, the first shall prevail.

Article 80.- The Rights to Express an Opinion and to be Heard.

All children and adolescents have the right to:

a)      Freely express their opinions in matters which interest them;

b)     Have their opinions be taken into account as a function of their development.

This right is extended to all spheres in which children and adolescents develop, among them: national, familial, community, social, scholastic, scientific, cultural, sport, and recreational spheres.

First Paragraph: The personal and direct assertion of this right is guaranteed to all children and adolescents, especially in all administrative and judicial proceedings that administer a decision that affects their rights, guarantees, and interests with more limits than those derived from their best interest.

Second Paragraph: In judicial or administrative proceedings, the appearance of the child or adolescent shall be fulfilled in the way that is most adequate to his personal and developmental situation.  In cases of children and adolescents with special needs, assistance by persons who, through profession or a special close relationship, are able to objectively transmit their opinions must be guaranteed.

Third Paragraph: When the personal assertion of this right does not turn out to be suitable for the best interest of the child, it shall be exercised by means of his parents, representatives, or guardians, provided that they are not interested parties and do not have interests opposing those of the child or adolescent, or through other persons who, through profession or a special relationship of closeness, are able to objectively transmit his opinion.

Fourth Paragraph: The opinion of the child or adolescent shall only be binding when the Law establishes it so.  No one can compel the children and adolescents to express their opinions, especially in administrative and judicial proceedings.

Article 87. -  Right to Justice.

All children and adolescents have the right to appear before a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal, in order to defend their rights and interests and so that the tribunal decides their petition within the legal realm.  All adolescents have the full capacity to exercise this right directly and personally.

For the assertion of this right, the State guarantees free juridical assistance and representation to children and adolescents who lack sufficient economic means.

 

Additional Resources and Links

Cecodap (In Spanish): http://www.cecodap.org.ve/

UNICEF- Venezuela (In Spanish): http://www.unicef.org/venezuela/

Defensoría del Pueblo— Office of the Public Defense (In Spanish and English): http://www.defensoria.gov.ve/

 



Endnotes

[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] Venez. Const., art. 78 (1999) available http://www.asambleanacional.gov.ve/ns2/PaginasPlanas/constitucion.asp, and also here.

[3] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Human Rights Report: Venezuela, U.S. State Department, §5 (2005) available http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41778.htm, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[4] See id., §5.

[5] See id., §5.

[6] See id., §5.

[7] G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989) available at http://www.unicef.org/spanish/crc/fulltext.htm.

[8] Ley Orgánica para la Protección del Niño y del Adolescente [Organic Law for the Protection of the Child and Adolescent], art. 8, 80, 87 (1998) available at http://www.me.gov.ve/LOPNA.pdf and also as .pdf Document.

[9] The translations are not official.

[10] G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989).

[11] Organic Law of the Protection of the Child and Adolescent, art. 8, 80, 87 (1998).

 

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