Venezuela: National Assembly Pushes Judicial Reforms

The pro-government majority has set a “judicial revolution” as one of its legislative priorities.

Caracas, June 2, 2022 ( – The Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) approved a reform of the country’s Judicial System Law.

During Tuesday’s parliamentary session, United Socialist Party (PSUV) Deputy Diosdado Cabello stated that it is the AN’s duty to fix a “flawed system.”

“The system in place is not working and that is why you see perpetrators become victims,” he said during his speech.

Cabello cited a recent attempted eviction of campesino families on alleged orders of an opposition mayor as an example of the justice system failing. A parliamentary commission is currently investigating the case.

“We want justice to work and not just favor the powerful or those who wield money or influence,” Cabello added.

The current Judicial System Law was approved in 2009. It has 29 articles and has the role of coordinating the actions of different bodies, among them courts, the attorney general’s office, the public ombudsman’s office and the penitentiary system.

After Tuesday’s approval, the bill’s text will now be open to modifications as deputies make consultations before being submitted for approval in the coming weeks. Other laws concerning justice officials’ ethics code, careers and training, as well as the nation’s Penal Code, will reportedly be subject to reforms in the near future.

The Nicolás Maduro administration and the pro-government AN majority have set a “judicial revolution” as one of the main legislative priorities for 2022.

In his speech, Cabello explained the parliament’s three-pronged approach to the issue. The first axis had to do with reforming the penitentiary system and addressing the country’s severe prison overcrowding problem. According to the high-ranking deputy, authorities have managed to find solutions to over 70 percent of some 40,000 cases of temporary custody.

The second priority is legislative reforms, with the Judicial System Law becoming the tenth law to be amended by the National Assembly since taking office in January 2021. The third one concerns restructuring judicial institutions. The first step in this direction was taken with the appointment of new Supreme Court justices in April.

Caracas’ changes to the justice system come in the midst of an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into alleged human rights abuses committed by the Venezuelan state during the violent opposition street protests in 2017.

The ICC prosecutor Karim Khan’s decision to open a formal probe was criticized by analysts who pointed to the body’s “politicized” track record. For its part, though it expressed its “disagreement,” the Maduro government has reiterated on several occasions its willingness to cooperate with the Hague-based court. In a visit to Caracas in late March, Khan announced the opening of a “technical assistance office” in Caracas to ramp up joint work.

At the same time, Chavista collectives and human rights groups have also raised concerns about a growing criminalization of grassroots struggles as well as violations of due process and significant judicial delays.

One such organization, the Committee for the Liberation of Imprisoned Workers, has campaigned to secure the release of a number of workers detained allegedly as a reprisal for trade union activism or opposing corruption schemes in state-owned companies.