April 28, 2009
On April 15, Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Vegas Torrealba discussed his country’s justice system during a talk entitled, “Role of Human Rights, Gender Equality, and Race in Venezuelan Law.” The event was sponsored by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.
Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree ’78 introduced Justice Torrealba as “a rising member of the judiciary” in Venezuela and praised his vast knowledge of race and gender issues, not only in Venezuela, but also worldwide.
During his presentation, Torrealba covered a wide range of topics, including the political institutions in Venezuela, the nature of judicial power there, human rights in the Venezuelan constitution, and the way political power is administered in Venezuela.
Torrealba described a judicial system not unlike that of the United States, where higher courts rule on lower courts’ application of Venezuelan law. He also described the system of judicial appointment in Venezuela and explained how the courts are organized.
On the subject of the Venezuelan constitution, Torrealba explained that “Title III is devoted to human rights, and it is divided into ten chapters.” He went on to enumerate some of the rights protected, including the right of individuals to recover damage awards from public institutions that deny them their human rights, and the duty of the government to follow signed international human rights treaties.
Torrealba also noted that the constitution “establishes full equality of gender,” explaining that, in practice, Venezuela has made “good efforts” towards making gender equality a reality in Venezuelan society.
The presentation concluded with a lively question and answer period, during which Torrealba fielded questions on everything from whether Venezuela has incorporated civic education into its schools in order to make students more comfortable accessing the legal system to what distinguishes the new Venezuelan constitution from its predecessors.