Venezuela - International Child Abduction

Although Venezuela had not been specifically mentioned as a non-compliant country in the latest yearly State Department reports on International Child Abduction, this country has a noted history of being mentioned in prior reports.  The U.S. State Department also frequently issues "travel warnings" regarding Venezuela, the most recent of which (July 2016) can be read in its entirety here.  Please read below for excerpts from the State Department reports that specifically mention Venezuela:

VENEZUELA AND CHILD ABDUCTION: U.S. Department of State 2009 Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention

"Patterns of Non-Compliance"

As in FY 2007, Venezuela demonstrated patterns of noncompliance in the areas of Central Authority performance and judicial performance in FY 2008. Channels of communication improved between the USCA and the Venezuelan Central Authority (VCA) at the beginning of FY 2008, but by the latter part of the reporting period, the USCA had difficulty contacting the VCA. One of the key operating principles listed in the Hague Permanent Bureau's Guide to Good Practice for Central Authority performance is the need for cooperation between Central Authorities, including clear and effective communication. Venezuelan judges often misinterpret return and access applications under the Convention as a request for them to determine custody or visitation rights, in contravention of the Convention. See Convention, art. 16 (court deciding Convention application shall not decide merits of custody rights).

For example, in one case, the TP filed for custody of the child at the same time the LBP filed an application for return of the child to the United States under the Convention. The Venezuelan judge refused to hear the Convention application until custody was determined. The USCA sent a letter reminding the lower court judge that, under Article 16 of the Convention, a court shall not decide on the merits of a custody claim until it has decided not to return the child under the Convention. In this case, the lower court ordered the child returned to the LBP in the United States, but an appellate court overturned the decision. This case was still pending at the close of the reporting period. The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no specific authority to enforce Venezuelan judges' decisions and compliance with Convention cases, but it engages in continued training of judges with regard to the Convention. The USCA also observed that there may be a nationalistic bias among judges in favor of the Venezuelan parent.

VENEZUELA: U.S. Department of State 2008 Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention

"Patterns of Non-Compliance"

Venezuela demonstrated patterns of noncompliance in FY 2007. The USCA finds communication with the Venezuelan Central Authority (VCA) to be an ongoing challenge. For example, the VCA did not report a return order issued and executed in May to the USCA until October, despite the USCA's repeated requests for information on the progress of the case. The USCA also notes patterns of noncompliance in Venezuela's judicial performance. Custody provisions are regularly incorporated into Convention decisions. In addition, despite return orders issued by lower courts, the taking parents can and do take advantage of the prolonged appeals process to significantly delay the child's return. These delays are particularly pronounced in cases in which the left-behind parent can not afford to retain a private attorney. Without the use of a private attorney, cases can languish in the courts indefinitely. For example, an application submitted in March 2007 is still pending without a hearing date.

VENEZUELA: U.S. Department of State 2006 Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention

Venezuela was not mentioned in the 2005 Convention compliance report because there were no active cases during the time frame covered by the report. For the period covered by the 2006 report, however, serious compliance problems became evident.

The Venezuelan Central Authority (VCA) typically failed to be responsive to inquiries by the USCA, U.S. Embassy Caracas, or left-behind parents. The USCA is not aware of any judicial training program for judges or prosecutors. Applications are not handled by the VCA in an expeditious manner nor are any measures being taken to improve processing of applications. Long delays in case proceedings are indicative of larger systemic problems in the Venezuelan court system. For neither of the two outstanding cases during the period of review was a court hearing scheduled. One case, now more than a year old, has never been heard in court, and in another case, a voluntary return was accomplished after ten months (no court hearing was held). With regard to enforcement of return orders, under Venezuelan law, parents can be subject to imprisonment and fines for not complying with court orders. With no cases heard during the rating period, however, there were no return orders issued or enforced.

U.S. Embassy Caracas met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Relations twice during the reporting period to discuss problems with case proceedings, once in May 2005 and again in September 2005, but no substantive information was received as a result of these efforts. As a result the USCA has determined that, during the most recent rating period, Venezuela was 'noncompliant' with regard to its duties under the Convention.

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