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November 15, 1999


The Organization of American States (OAS) by unanimous decision today gave approval that paves the way for the Justice Studies Center of the Americas to be established to support reform and modernization of the hemisphere’s justice systems by facilitating human resource development, information exchange and technical cooperation.

The decision was moved at the twenty-sixth Special OAS General Assembly Session presided over by United States Ambassador Victor Marrero, after Peruvian Ambassador Beatriz Ramacciotti, who chairs the Special Group to implement the recommendations of the Ministers of Justice, gave an overview and a status report on the mandates.

Ramacciotti said the concept behind the Center was for it to be an inter-governmental agency with technical and operational autonomy that will make it the first hemispheric body working to turn the mandates from the summits, the justice ministers and the OAS itself into reality. "The Center will be called upon to provide vital assistance to modernize and enhance our countries’ the justice systems, an area critical to the aspiration to live in peace, democracy and development," the Peruvian diplomat declared.

A message from OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria, meanwhile, said an improved justice system was vital to institutional development of democracies, to civil liberties and to the pursuit of economic activity. "I am convinced," he said, "that with the support of governments and academic institutions across the hemisphere, the Center will become an invaluable vehicle to support discussion and collaboration to guide the modernization strategies of all our countries’ judicial systems."

When they meet in San JosÚ, Costa Rica, next March the hemisphere’s justice ministers will decide where the Justice Studies Center is to be headquartered. The Center will be have a Directing Council of seven members of the highest professional caliber elected in their personal capacity by the OAS. It will also have an executive board and a group of advisors that the Council will establish to assist in the pursuance of its objectives.


The idea for a Justice Studies Center was raised at the Second Summit of the Americas held in Santiago, Chile, in 1998 and reiterated at the OAS General Assembly session in Caracas, Venezuela, in June 1998. Subsequently, the Second Meeting of Ministers of Justice that was held in March 1999 in Lima, Peru, established a Special Group on Justice that would finally adopt draft statutes that now pave the way for the creation of the Center.


A number of delegations took the opportunity of the extraordinary General Assembly session to stress the importance of the OAS decision. They singled out for particular mention the work done by the Peruvian Ambassador as Chair of the Special Group.