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Working Group on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters - OAS

Friday November 2, 2001

Washington D.C.


MINUTES OF MEETING

Present

Jorge Garcia-Gonzalez, Director, Legal Cooperation to the OAS
Savio D'Souza, Webmaster for the Legal Cooperation Directorate, OAS
Lainie Shore, Legal Cooperation Directorate, OAS
Nelly Correa, Informatics, OAS
Juan Carlos, Informatics, OAS
Étienne Savoie, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Canada to the OAS
Mauricio Alice, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Argentina to the OAS
Eugenio Curia, Advisor - International Issues, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Argentina
Edda Dumont Adolph, First Secretary, Alternate Representative, Permanent Mission of the Bahamas to the OAS
Luis Menéndrez Castro, Ministerial Advisor, Permanent Mission of El Salvador to the OAS
Daniel Poulin, Centre de Recherche en droit public, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
Gordon Godffrey, Director, Connectivity, Justice Canada
Pierre-Gilles Bélanger, Legal Advisor, Justice Canada

1. Presentation of public site

Luis Menedez from the Permanent Mission of El Salvador to the OAS presented together with the Webmaster for Legal Cooperation, Savio D'Souza, the Legal Assistance Web page.

2. Presentation of a private site

One of the project's objectives is to improve communications between the OAS member states with regard to mutual legal assistance and cooperation. The project will therefore be in keeping with the follow-up to the Québec Summit—it will involve our commitment to strengthening democracy. Owing to our public network, each member state will have a better understanding of the criminal law and mutual legal assistance systems with which they work, which in turn will allow them to improve cooperation between them and answer various questions at various times. Nevertheless, the network must allow users to communicate more easily and find sufficient and necessary information easily and quickly regarding mutual legal assistance and cooperation in criminal matters involving OAS member states. Therefore, it is essential that the private network be designed and up and running as soon as possible.

How exactly is still very unclear. Modern technology now allows us to have adequate security measures in place. In fact, Gordon Godffrey, Director of Connectivity at the Department of Justice, gave a presentation on the effectiveness of a security product using communications on the net. (Presentation enclosed.)

Mr. Godffrey will remain in contact with Juan Carlos from the OAS to determine whether it is possible to implement such a mechanism The Working Group agreed that even if it is determined that the OAS member states will take turns in being responsible for and maintaining a private site, this site will essentially and necessarily be based in Washington close to the OAS.

Furthermore, Mr. Godffrey discussed what type of documents may and may not be added on this site. The issue of security raises many problems, but it also offers solutions. Another important issue that was raised was data protection. To this end, precise and clear guidelines will have to be established to put an end to information exchange with         non-consensual states.

As in the case of the public site, the working group concluded that before going any further they will have to test what they truly need. The private site must be used and have added value for member states. Some pointed out that too many private sites, chat- or forum-style, are not received with the enthusiasm required to sustain a private site.

With regard to this subject, Canada along with El Salvador, Argentina and the Bahamas will coordinate the embryonic stage of the private site's pilot project. We will include what we feel would be useful and viable with the data we have at the moment for a legal community involved in criminal law.

3. Implementation strategies

A survey will be distributed among officials responsible for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters from the 34 governments represented within the OAS. The purpose of this survey is to assess technical and legal needs in order to determine which actions the working group will be able to take to fully carry out its mandate .

Participants will have to respond to the survey before mid-December 2001. With regard to this subject, the working group's 4 member countries divided up the task between them to do a follow-up with the countries assigned to them.

Argentina: Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Guyana, Peru, Suriname.

The Bahamas: Dominican Republic, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Barbados.

Canada: United States of America, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia (and Haiti [in collaboration with the Bahamas, which is responsible for it])

El Salvador: Panama, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua.

Conference

A meeting gathering all responsible officials is considered essential in order to consolidate the project. Dr. Jorge Gonzalez suggested the meeting be held in Trinidad to take advantage of the ministerial meeting. Various reasons support the choice of Trinidad during ministerial meetings. Dr. Gonzalez asked Canada if it can coordinate this meeting. Canada accepted and will carry out this task in collaboration with the working group's member countries.

4. International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

The Institute for Connectivity has not yet hired a coordinator. As soon as someone is hired to fulfill this position, a meeting will take place with members of the Institute. In all probability, this project should receive particular attention from the Institute for Connectivity considering the similarity in the objectives sought between the Institute and the project.

5. REMJA IV (Trinidad and Tobago)

One of the members of the working group will present to the OAS General Assembly the possibility that one day be added to the ministerial agenda, that is, Sunday, March 9, in Trinidad and Tobago. This day will be designed for experts to implement the project among the OAS's 34 countries. The working group's countries will support and coordinate this activity in collaboration with the OAS Legal Cooperation secretariat.

Next steps:

The survey will be reviewed by the member countries and distributed before the end of November by the OAS Legal Cooperation secretariat.

Canada, in collaboration with the OAS Legal Cooperation secretariat, will coordinate the meeting of experts for Trinidad and Tobago.

Each member of the working group will make necessary changes to the public site.

PGB


2002-03-06
 
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