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WORKING GROUP ON MUTUAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE IN CRIMINAL MATTERS, OAS

Monday, September 8, 2003

Washington, D.C.

MINUTES

The OAS working group on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, met in Washington, D.C., on September 8, 2003. The purpose of the working group meeting was to follow-up on its activities to strengthen and consolidate mutual legal assistance in criminal matters among the States of the Americas.

The meeting began with a roundtable presentation of individuals present at the meeting, followed by a brief introduction on the agenda by the working group's chair from Canada, Pierre-Gilles Belanger.

The first agenda item dealt with the meeting of the Ibero-American Association of Public Prosecutors, held in Cartagena, Colombia, in July of 2003, and the presentation made by Canada, in its capacity as Chair of this working group and the meeting of central authorities and other experts on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters within the REMJA framework, on the Information Exchange Network on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters among OAS Member States. In summation, all participants in the Cartegena meeting were pleased with the presentation of the MLA Information Exchange Network. However, discussion arose on the compatibility between the OAS project and their initiative in creating a similar information network. To this respect, Pierre-Gilles Belanger, Canada's representative, offered to the OAS working group some suggestions on how to approach this situation to be discussed after the telephone conference with Dr. Alfredo Ortiz, Office of the Public Prosecutor of Argentina.

Dr. Ortiz's telephone conference began with a brief introduction of all those present, as well as presenting him with a brief overview of the discussion that has taken place to the moment. Dr. Ortiz addressed three main issues in his presentation. First, that domestic legislation in OAS Member States impedes the full implementation of the Information Exchange Network and that the OAS must promote said implementation. Second, that the Working Group on the Information Exchange Network on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, through its chair, make the private section of the network a promising product to be offered to the Ibero-American Association. Finally, he posed as his third point a question on, can the OAS and the Ibero-American Association work together? To this question, he offered to the Working Group that they coordinate their efforts with the Ibero-Association, through its Chair; possibly offering to incorporate the Association's virtual web-site to the OAS MLA project and WG participate to the Association's activities.

After the telephone conference, the working discussed and came to a consensus on the next steps it should take to move forward in obtaining the involvement of the Public Prosecutors, not only within the Working Group but also the REMJA process. As an initial step in approaching the Ibero-American Association, a letter will be drafted by the Working Group's chair to the Chair of the Ibero-American Association highlighting the following items: a. inform the Association of the Working Group's activities; b. support their initiatives; c. offer them the opportunity to participate in the secure e-mail project. All of the above items referring to the leadership of the OAS in this hemispheric initiative.

In obtaining the involvement of the Public Prosecutors in the REMJA process, the Working Group agreed to propose the expansion of the convocation parameters in regards to the REMJA meetings to include said Public Prosecutors of the OAS Member States. This proposal is due to the fact that the current scope of the REMJA meetings does not include those authorities or experts in relation to legal and judicial cooperation matters in combating transnational organized crime.

The Working Group then addressed the second agenda item on the future of the Working Group. In summary, the Working Group focused on the issue of incorporating the issue of extradition on the Information Exchange Network and agreed to invite the other OAS members to participate in this phase of the project through a consultation document to be distributed before the next REMJA meeting and present its finding in a technical meeting the day before REMJA formally begins. However, the members of the Working Group agreed to incorporate extradition information as part of pilot phase and present an evaluation in the above mentioned technical meeting. In another matter, and as part of the next agenda item, the Chair urged the Working Group members to submit the pertinent information to complete the public section of the network and to continue to coordinate with the other OAS Member States in submitting said information, in conjunction with the OAS Technical Secretariat's and Chair's efforts in gathering it.

The third agenda item on the Presentation of the New Network, consultant Rosario Duaso Calés, presented the new public and private website of the Information Exchange Network on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters to the Working Group members. Her presentation was received with great satisfaction by all Working Group members and was congratulated for the new look of the website. Upon the conclusion of Ms. Duaso's presentation some members offered comments, observations and suggestions on the information contained and overall appearance of the website. All comments, observations and suggestions were duly noted by the presenter. As a final note to this agenda item, the Chair expressed is his gratitude to the consultant's efforts and noted that this presentation was to be made to the Permanent Council of the OAS in the following days. It has been noted by the Group that continuity should be addressed by Canada in order that all OAS countries be able making follow up with Dr. Calés and OAS.

The fourth and last agenda item dealt with the secure e-mail proposal within the MLA Information Exchange Network project. Mr. Gord Godfrey, DOJ Canada, made a brief presentation to the Working Group on the developments regarding the implementation of the secure e-mail system to be utilized among the MLA authorities. He highlighted that the pilot phase of this secure e-mail system is work with the GROOVE system and server. He stated that he has received funding to purchase the server and licensing agreements to begin the pilot phase of the secure e-mail system. Also, as part of a tentative timeline to begin the operation of this system, including the administrative coordination and technical installation, a letter would be drafted to all OAS Member States inviting them to participate in this pilot phase of the project. Mr. Godfrey, also, as part of his presentation, introduced a representative of GROOVE to the Working Group members. The GROOVE representative gave a brief description of his company and its product.

Finally, it was agreed upon by the Working Group to present the results of this pilot phase of the secure e-mail system at the next REMJA. This allowing the Ministers and Attorneys General to consider and possibly adopt that this secure e-mail system is fully implemented in OAS Member States.

 
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