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Inter-American Juridical Committee - November 2016

Inter-American Juridical Committee Approves Ten Principles and Guidelines on Public Defense in the Americas

At its most recent regular session (October 2016), the Inter-American Juridical Committee (CJI) adopted a resolution approving 10 principles and guidelines on public defense in the Americas. In that resolution, the CJI takes into account that the right to defense is a right recognized by all the universal and regional instruments on human rights and that legal assistance is a guarantee for the exercise of this right and must be provided by the State.

Inter-American Juridical Committee Approves Ten Principles and Guidelines on Public Defense in the Americas

At that regular session, the CJI received the visit of representatives of the Inter-American Association of Public Defenders (AIDEF), with whom it engaged in productive discussion. In recent years, the AIDEF has been executing a set of cooperation projects with the Department of International Law of the OAS (which is the Technical Secretariat of the CJI) to promote training for public defenders on different aspects that help increase access to justice.

The principles adopted by the CJI recognize, among other things, that access to justice is a means of reestablishing the exercise of fundamental human rights that are being ignored or violated, and that that access is not limited to ensuring admission to a court but applies to all stages of the process. The CJI also indicates that the work of official public defenders is an essential aspect of strengthening access to justice and consolidating democracy, and that legal assistance provided free of charge by the State is fundamental in promoting and protecting the right to access to justice by all persons, in particular those in vulnerable situations.

The CJI further indicates that the States have an obligation to eliminate obstacles that impair or restrict access to public defense, and emphasizes the need for the functional, financial, and/or budgetary independence of public defender offices, notwithstanding the diverse legal systems of every country.

The CJI transmitted this resolution to the Permanent Council of the OAS, with the recommendation to consider submitting it to the OAS General Assembly, for possible adoption of those principles by the highest organ of the Organization..

» See the text of the resolution “Principles and Guidelines on Public Defense in the Americas,” CJI/RES.226 (LXXXIX-O/16), of October 13, 2016.

For further information on this matter, please contact the Department of International Law of the OAS – Technical Secretariat of the Inter-American Juridical Committee +1 202 370 0743. 

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