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
November 15 and 16, 2000
Mr. Jorge Garcia-Gonzalez, Director, Department of Legal Cooperation, OAS
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 ()
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:
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:
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).
- 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:
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
 Mutual legal assistance involves criminal matters and includes assistance related to proceeds of crime.