Parliamentary immunity is an issue on the table. Being a representative of the people's power in Parliament, where the laws that direct the destiny of all the inhabitants of a country are created and debated, constitutes a position with strict and delimited functions. In order to fulfill them fully, these leaders must have full guarantees that allow them to exercise them legally and without harming their integrity as public officials and citizens.
The limits, duties and rights of the parliamentary function are established in the constitutional charters and in the jurisprudence of the governing bodies of justice, in the case of Venezuela of the Supreme Court of Justice.
One of these essential guarantees for the parliamentary function is the so-called immunity. The legal nature of this guarantee has been the subject of discussions and must be resolved in the analysis of Venezuelan law, in the constitutional evolution of the institution and in the precedents set by the jurisprudence on this matter.
Immunity works in two main areas.
The first guarantees the integrity of the deputies and the second represents a guarantee of free autonomy and independence in the full exercise of their office, which ultimately translates into a guarantee for democracy.
Alan Aldana & Abogados has undertaken the task of studying its evolution, treatment and scope in Venezuelan history, with the intention of shedding light on the legal analysis of the most recent cases of infringement of parliamentary immunity.
The difference between parliamentary immunity and the so-called "parliamentary irresponsibility" is also another issue that we will explain in this document, since it is important to emphasize that immunity refers to facts, acts, actions or omissions in which the leader may incur in the exercise of his functions, while parliamentary non-responsibility refers only to the votes or opinions of the said official during his work.
This "parliamentary irresponsibility" was developed in Venezuela in parallel to the constitutional evolution of immunity, with the intention of regulating this new guarantee in an institutional manner.
Parliamentary immunity: History builds the future
Since the first Venezuelan constitution, issued in 1811, the first VenezuelanThe Constitution of the United States, inspired by the U.S. Magna Carta, already provided for personal immunity for representatives and senators in all cases, except those concerning treason or disturbance of the public peace.
The formula of limited parliamentary immunity has been replicated, with adjustments and adaptations, in the more than 20 constitutions adopted in Venezuelan lands. If we pay attention to the last two magna cartas of the twentieth century, before the 1999 Constitution, we observe an expansion of the regulations and scope of immunity, which opened an interesting debate in the doctrine and national jurisprudence on the subject related to the protection of the deputy in crimes committed before being proclaimed in office or when he resigns from office.
The 1961 Constitution, prior to the current one, offered a more detailed regulation on parliamentary immunity.. In that sense, Article 143 mentioned that this guarantee was effective from the proclamation of the deputy until 20 days after leaving office. Likewise, it determined responsibilities to public officials who violated the immunity of the assembly members and considered the special procedures for the violation of the guarantee, in case the requirements for it were fulfilled.
A review of the 1999 Magna Carta, which currently governs the Venezuelan administration, shows the importance given to the effective exercise of the parliamentary function. in order to enjoy immunity. In our opinion, based on legal knowledge, the provisions related to this guarantee are less specific and clear, with respect to those established in the Constitution of 1961, since they do not define aspects such as the immunity of alternate deputies or those who are not actively involved in the exercise of their functions.
About the previous judicial process
In all the constitutional regulations on the subject, the effect of parliamentary immunity is the application of a prior judicial process.In the case of having the legal elements required to prosecute a deputy, through the so-called trial of merit. In the last two national charters this trial can only be finally carried out with prior authorization of the Parliament, otherwise it is without effect.
Venezuelan parliamentary immunity is not absolute, it has always had regulations that have been delineated in the constitutional history. to grant it clear limits and establish its scope. The team of the law firm Alan Aldana & Abogados determined the most important points of these regulations, among them the consideration of this guarantee only in the cases of deputies in the strict exercise of their functions, without covering acts, facts, actions or omissions that even being active, are not related to the exercise of their functions.
The rule is also strict when it comes to excluding from immunity substitute deputies who have not joined the legislature.The same applies to senior parliamentarians who have been temporarily removed from office. It is also without effect in the case of legal proceedings that are not of a criminal nature, but refer to private, civil, patrimonial, family or mercantile procedures.
In the following document we offer a detailed review and analysis of the evolution of the Venezuelan parliamentary immunity, as well as we evaluate the current scope of this guarantee, taking into account what is reflected in the Constitution and the jurisprudence of the TSJ when it has had to rule on certain cases. Likewise, we present specific and well-referenced current cases, to reflect the way in which parliamentary immunity has been assumed in the national territory.