The president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, Luisa Morales, said this week that Venezuela’s penal code, unchanged since 1893, has become archaic and impossible to reform, and thus will be rewritten this year and adapted to the constitution and contemporary realities.
Morales said that the current penal code has a strong Spanish and French influence, and while it may have been suited to Venezuelan reality at the time, circumstances have changed during many years of national independence.
“That is why it’s fundamental that we put forward a code that is adapted to the new constitution and its principles, and adapted as well to modern penal law… It is absurd to think of a code from the era of its drafters in 1893,” she said, adding: “We are talking about duels with swords… this is the penal code of the colonial era… We must create a new one.”
She also stated that the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, through its decisions, has had to change parts of the existing law that cannot be applied in the current context of human rights and that contradict constitutional principles.
As an example, she cited the most recent reform in 2006, which edited a norm preventing a man’s killing of his wife from being considered as homicide.
“Many norms in the penal code, if we go over them, we realize that they cannot be upheld in a country where we have really advanced, especially in our consideration of the person and fundamental human rights,” Morales said.
She indicated that, three years ago, Venezuela’s highest court assembled a team of specialists headed by Francisco Carrasquero to draft a new penal code, and that the draft was brought before judges for discussion and revision two years ago.
“Once this draft code is approved, it goes to the legislative agenda. This is the contribution of the judiciary to changing the penal code. That is to say, we are not improvising; we are talking about a code that we have developed, discussed, that has all the possibilities of resolving current issues,” Morales said.
She also indicated that the new penal code will address topics such as information technology and indigenous issues, and that it will contain references to a series of special laws including the Law Against Corruption, the Law Against Organized Crime, and the Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents.
Morales indicated that, regarding the archaic nature of the penal code and the proposal of the judiciary to cease reforms to the old text, the executive has responded favorably and indicated its willingness to enact a new code more suited to current realities.
Supreme Tribunal of Justice / Press Office – Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S. / March 7, 2012