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April 2017

Successful Special Meeting of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs on Public Defense and Access to Justice

Exitosa Sesión Especial de la Comisión de Asuntos Jurídicos y Políticos sobre Defensa Pública y Acceso a la justicia

The Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP), on March 16 last, held a special meeting to consider methods being implemented by each public defender institution in the region for the prevention of torture and other cruel and degrading treatment or punishment. Participating on that occasion were over 22 OAS member states, permanent observers, and public defenders of six countries of the region, all members of the Inter-American Association of Public Defenders (AIDEF).

Dr. Dante Negro, Director of the Department of International Law (Secretariat for Legal Affairs) of the OAS, referred to the content of the document “Principles and Guidelines on Public Defense in the Americas” (CJI/doc.509/16 rev. 2), approved by the Inter-American Juridical Committee (CJI) last October by resolution CJI/RES. 226 (LXXXIX-O/16). As Dr. Negro explained, the Principles were prepared by that Department in its capacity as Technical Secretariat of the CJI, with collaboration from the AIDEF.

These Principles and Guidelines are without parallel in the region and systematize the standards on public defense developed by the OAS General Assembly in resolutions adopted since 2011. They recognize, among other aspects, that the work of official public defenders is an essential aspect of strengthening access to justice and the consolidation of democracy; the obligation of the States to eliminate barriers affecting or limiting access to public defense so as to ensure free and full access to justice; and the importance of the independence, and functional, financial, and/or budgetary autonomy of public defender offices.

Dr. Negro noted that the CJI had forwarded said document to the Permanent Council with the recommendation that it be referred to the General Assembly for possible adoption.

The Committee had occasion to hear the presentations of the guest public defenders on their role as coordinators of their respective AIDEF regional groups. They referred, among other aspects, to the international instruments in force in this area; best practices applied in the countries for the prevention of torture; the content of legislation of American countries and their lacunae in this area; different aspects of the phenomenon of torture and its manifestations; practices that may be characterized as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, especially in prisons; ways to prevent and prosecute it, and the role of public defender offices in achieving that; best practices and experiences, and police brutality and oversight in jails, custody measures, and other aspects. 

» The reference documents, participant presentations, may be consulted at this link *only in Spanish 

📄 Meeting Summary *only in Spanish 
🔊 Full Audio Session
*original language
📷 Photogallery of the Session

For further information on this matter, please contact the Department of International Law of the Secretariat for Legal Affairs of the OAS +1 202 370-0741. 

» For additional information about the Department, please visit our Website


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