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May 2019

OAS Department Of International Law takes part in CAJP Special Meeting on Public Defense

OAS Department Of International Law takes part in CAJP Special Meeting on Public Defense

Dante Negro, Director of the Department of International Law (DIL), the technical secretariat to the Inter-American Juridical Committee (CJI), took part in a special meeting the OAS Permanent Council's Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) held on April 4 pursuant to a General Assembly mandate. Also participating were Ms. Nydia Arévalo de Corzantes, Director General of the Public Criminal Defense Institute of Guatemala, and Ambassador Joel Hernández García, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Rapporteur for the Rights of Persons Deprived of their Liberty.

Commissioner Hernández spoke about the right to defense under Article 8 of the American Convention - the right to material defense, exercised through the very acts of the accused, and technical defense, which is exercised by a law practitioner, who advises the person under investigation about his or her rights and duties and is a key component of due process. He stressed the importance of public defense work in ensuring that detention conditions are consistent with human dignity at police detention facilities as well as at prison facilities. In concluding, he pointed out that the IACHR had identified inadequate public defense as a major cause of excessive use of pretrial detention.

The AIDEF General Coordinator, meanwhile, noted that the coming together of various Latin American and Caribbean public defender offices at that regional forum provided opportunity for new insights and strategies concerning mechanisms for detention center monitoring and treatment of vulnerable groups, especially detainees.

She pointed to a valuable AIDEF tool called the Handbook for Public Defenders: Monitoring Human Rights at Detention Centers, containing a series of guidelines, principles, and recommendations for public defenders, saying it was a tool for ensuring access to justice by protecting the human right to be informed about one’s legal status and to timely and efficient technical defense.

Lastly, the DIL Director referred to the 10 Principles and Guidelines on Public Defense in the Americas, adopted by the CJI. He also argued that defending people’s rights, as well as access to justice, should extend across borders, given the undeniable effects of globalization; the increasing flow of migrants from country to country; and the increasing number of transnational companies whose operations can produce potential harm and infringe upon human rights – thereby creating, in practice, possible conflict of jurisdictions.

The meeting concluded with AIDEF regional representatives sharing best practices and delegations making comments.

Over the last few years the DIL has been collaborating with the AIDEF to promote and raise awareness about American standards for access to justice, providing support for both the CAJP’s annual special meetings and organizing training workshops for public defenders in the region.

For further information on this matter, please contact the Department of International Law of the Secretariat for Legal Affairs of the OAS +1 202 370 0743.

» For additional information about the Department of International Law (DIL), please visit our Website


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