Legal Cooperation in Criminal Matters Meeting Place

Le Forum de l'assistance judiciaire en matière criminelle

Foro de Asistencia Judicial en Materia Penal

Fórum de Assistência Jurídica em Matéria Penal








Working Group on Mutual Legal Assistance

Bahamas, El Salvador, Argentina and Canada

OAS - Internet tools for mutual legal assistance

Washington Meeting
Canadian Embassy
November 15 and 16, 2000


Mr. Jorge Garcia-Gonzalez, Director, Department of Legal Cooperation, OAS
Mr. Savio D'Souza, Department of Legal Cooperation, OAS
Mrs. Nadia Bourely, Department of Legal Cooperation, OAS
Mrs. Anne Lawson, Permanent Mission of Canada to the OAS
Mrs. Monica Pinto, National Director of International Affairs and Cooperation, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Argentina
Mr. Eugenio Curia, Counsellor, International Issues, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Argentina
Mrs. Keva Bains, Senior Counsel, Office of the Attorney General, The Bahamas
Mrs. Edda Dumont Adolph, First Secretary, Alternate Representative, Permanent Mission of the Bahamas to the OAS
Mr. Luis Menéndrez Castro, Minister-Counsellor, Permanent Mission of El Salvador to the OAS
Mr. Daniel Poulin, Centre de Recherche en droit public, Faculty of Law, University of Montreal
Mrs. Alexia Roussos, Centre de Recherche en droit public, Faculty of Law, University of Montreal
Mr. Claude LeFrançois, Counsel, Department of Justice Canada
Mrs. Patricia Dunberry, Counsel, Department of Justice Canada
Mr. Pierre-Gilles Bélanger, Counsel, Department of Justice Canada


The Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Permanent Canadian Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS), Mr. Peter M. Boehm, opened the meeting by welcoming all the participants. He encouraged them all to play a leadership role in establishing a truly hemispheric electronic network on mutual legal assistance. He stated that he was looking forward to the day when the recommendation made by this working group would be accepted by all the member states of the OAS.

M. Boehm emphasized the importance of this project in setting a precedent for mutual and multilateral cooperation in the field of criminal law. This project would also set a precedent in an area that we were all increasingly emphasizing in our hemispheric activities - "connectivity". The mutual legal assistance information system not only would serve to increase the capacity of each member state to combat organized crime and related problems, but would also serve as a model of technological cooperation.

Canada hoped to make connectivity the "brand" of the next Summit of the Americas to be held in Quebec City in April 2001. This initiative was a perfect example of the real significance of the concept of connectivity - an example of the practical results that could be achieved by better connecting our hemisphere.

Presentation of a draft of the project and its objectives

One of the project's objectives was to improve communication between the members states of the OAS in the area of mutual legal assistance. It would thus be consistent with the goal of the Quebec City Summit - to strengthen our democracies. The network would promote, in each member state, a better understanding of the criminal law and mutual legal assistance systems of all member states. This in turn would enhance cooperation between them, thereby enabling them to respond to different demands at different times.

The network should enable users to communicate more easily and to access readily and quickly sufficient information necessary to deal with mutual legal assistance matters between the member states of the OAS. It was agreed during the meeting that efforts would focus initially on the public aspect of the network, while the private aspect would be developed as soon as possible.

The network clearly was in keeping with the goal of strengthening democracy by making justice more easily accessible to citizens and better informing them of the role of their government.

The mutual legal assistance Internet page of each member state ([1])

Each member state presented a draft of the content that should be included on the public site of the network (see the four attachments). In summary, there was general agreement that the public site should include the following content:

  • A general presentation (general description of the legal structure);
  • Multilateral instruments containing provisions relating to mutual legal assistance;
  • Bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties and other treaties containing provisions relating to mutual legal assistance;
  • Explanatory notes where necessary;
  • National legislation and regulations (with links to existing resources or PDF);
  • Description of the mutual legal assistance process;
  • Case law (with links to existing resources or PDF);
  • Other pertinent material or links.

Private Web site

A private forum was essential to enhance cooperation and connectivity between the institutions of the OAS responsible for mutual legal assistance. This private Web site should be as confidential as technology allows. It was agreed that this private Web forum should not include any secret or sensitive material. The following decisions were also made:

  • Members would be chosen by the central authority of each country;
  • The OAS would host the resource within its environment and coordinate it;
  • Canada would analyse the possibility of establishing a structure to serve the private forum.

Next steps

Short-term development

As part of the immediate steps to be taken to establish the OAS site on mutual legal assistance, it was agreed that the four countries would send the project coordinator the documents requested in accordance with the timetable established (see attachment).

Medium-term development

   -  Inform the OAS Committee on Judicial and Political Affairs;

   -   Inform the United States, in its capacity as coordinator of the OAS's working group on extradition, of the status of the pilot project on mutual legal assistance. This working group could be composed of the United States, Jamaica, Mexico and Chile and possibly Trinidad and Tobago..

   -   Deal, at the next meeting, with questions that have yet to be discussed and that should be developed in preparation for the Quebec City Summit, in particular:

  1. Obtain a consensus of all the member states in the Working Group on the documentary content of the pilot project before it is presented to the OAS;
  2. Determine whether it would be appropriate for other member states to participate in the project before the Quebec City Summit, having regard to their respective capacities in terms of human resources and technology;
  3. Consolidate the private information network to effectively give the competent authorities and practitioners access to appropriate points of contact on matters involving mutual legal assistance and to facilitate direct communication between them and identify common problems.
  4. Determine precisely the type and form of the recommendations to be developed in preparation for the next meeting of the ministers of Justice of the member states.
  5. Develop a strategy for obtaining the participation of all the member states of the OAS.

Technical strategy

The OAS and Canada will have to identify an approach to developing an Internet tool for mutual legal assistance that reflects the OAS's capacity to support the system, such as the type of modularity needed. They will work together in applying international standards (country codes, language codes, dates) and using standardized technologies (HTML n º 4, CSS, etc.). For example, special attention will be paid to the common structure for the Web page of each country, the coherence of the system of naming directories and files, the uniformity of all markers, and uniformity in processing texts published as part of this project, and to the marking of sections.

November 27, 2000

[1] Mutual legal assistance involves criminal matters and includes assistance related to proceeds of crime.

By Country People Activities Resources Links Home Related Matters