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
REMJA WORKING GROUP OF EXPERTS ON MUTUAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE IN CRIMINAL MATTERS
September 16-17, 2004
The REMJA Working Group of Experts on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, met in Washington, D.C. on September 16-17, 2004. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the new mandates established by REMJA V and 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 introduction of individuals present at the meeting, followed by a brief introduction on the agenda by the Working Group's coordinator, Mr. Pierre-Gilles Bélanger, from Canada.
The following is a summary of the list of topics discussed and the decisions taken by the Working Group participants for each:
1- ADDITIONAL WORK/NEW MEMBERS:
The first agenda item dealt with the new Working Group and the REMJA mandates, Mr. Pierre-Gilles Bélanger presented a summary of the history of the Working Group and its developments since REMJA III. This presentation was followed by a discussion on the expansion of the Working Group to other interested countries invited to the meeting. To this respect, the original Working Group, comprised of Argentina, The Bahamas, Canada and El Salvador agreed to invite additional countries to the Working Group Meeting, in order to better respond to the mandates established by REMJA V. Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, United States accepted the invitation and are now part of the Working Group. Regarding future expansions, the Group agreed that it should be expanded, remaining open to all 34 OAS member states.
Taking into consideration that REMJA V reinforced, through its recommendations (Section II A, item 3), that the Working Group should expand its work to extradition, including temporary extradition, the OAS Secretariat presented a draft questionnaire on extradition, among other topics (see below), and asked the experts to forward their comments and suggestions before October 18th, 2004. The deadline was agreed by all participants. Once the comments/suggestions are received, the Secretariat will prepare a revised version of the questionnaire and submit it to all the 34 OAS Member States.
It was also agreed that a request for a glossary for legal terms commonly used for Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition matters in each country be included in the questionnaire.
3- TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME:
On this topic, it was agreed that the Working Group will pay close attention to the developments taking place at the Permanent Council of the OAS, through its Committee on Hemispheric Security, regarding the implementation of paragraph 2 of AG/RES 2026 (XXXIV - O/04), “Fighting Transnational Organized Crime in the Hemisphere”, which deals with the advisability of drawing up a Hemispheric Plan of Action against Transnational Organized Crime, in order to the fulfill REMJA V’s recommendation (Section II A, item 3) that the Meeting of Central Authorities proceed with organizing the sections on mutual legal and judicial cooperation of the above mentioned plan, including measures of administration of cases by the requesting State so as not to overburden the requested State.
4- MODEL LAW:
Following the next topic on the agenda regarding the feasibility of a model law on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, the experts did not object to the idea of it. Nevertheless, some called attention to the fact that the process of creation of such a Model Law could be very difficult, bearing in mind there are different legal systems in the Hemisphere. To this end, it was agreed that a first study for the definition of general checklists on the topic, for the identification of best practices and other topics not duly covered by the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance should be taken into consideration in order to harmonize the practices of Mutual Legal Assistance in the future. Mr. Diego Solernó, expert from Argentina, accepted the task of preparing a draft document on this topic with the support of the Secretariat.
5- PUBLIC WEBSITE:
The working group moved to the next item on the agenda, the Public Website on MLA and Extradition. To this end, Ms. Rosario Duaso from Canada presented the actual state of the public and private website of the Information Exchange Network on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters to the Working Group members and emphasized the importance of keeping it up-to-date. Ms. Rosario Duaso recommended that the secretariat send a reminder every four months to the experts, in order to obtain information such as new laws enacted, new bilateral and/or multilateral agreements into force. She also pointed out that it was the responsibility of each central authority to make sure that its country’s page on the website contained the most accurate information. Ms. Duaso’s recommendations were duly noted and accepted by all participants.
6- FOLLOW-UP TO OTTAWA RECOMMENDATIONS:
Regarding the follow-up to the recommendations established at the Meeting of Central Authorities and Other Experts on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, held in Ottawa, Canada, from April 30th to May 2nd , 2003, the OAS Secretariat informed that it had included a section containing specific questions regarding their implementation by each of the States Parties on the abovementioned draft questionnaire (see extradition section), in accordance with REMJA V recommendations (Section II A, item 2). Based on the replies received, the Secretariat will prepare a brief report, tentatively before the next Working Group meeting.
7- SECOND MEETING OF CENTRAL AUTHORITIES:
With respect to the venue of the Second Meeting of Central Authorities or Other Experts on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, the experts from The Bahamas and Brazil informed that they will consult with their respective ministries on the possibility of hosting such event.
It was agreed that the Meeting should take place, preferably, in the first half of 2005 and before the Summit of the Americas, to be held in Argentina in November 2005, since the Working Group agreed to present the current progress of the efforts on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters in the hemisphere at that occasion.
8- SECURE E-MAIL PROJECT:
Groove Network representatives made a presentation of their company and of the new version of its product, the Groove software. They also answered questions from the experts on technical issues with the use of Groove.
On this topic, the members of the Working Group decided its willingness to upgrade Groove to its new 3.0 version and that the Coordination of the Working Group and the OAS should, in accordance with REMJA V recommendations (Section II B, item 4) and assuring that the system server belongs to the OAS, continue with the expansion of the Secure E-mail Project and provide the training to the new participants for the second phase before March 2005.
9- INVOLVEMENT OF PUBLIC PROSECUTORS’ OFFICES:
In light of REMJA V’s recommendation (Section II B, item 4), Mr. Juan Emilio Oviedo from Paraguay made a brief presentation on the meeting of the Ibero-American Association of Public Prosecutors, held in Bogotá, Colombia, in June 2004, followed by a presentation from Ms. Tania Bolaños from Colombia, on the Association’s project called the “Ibero-American Virtual Prosecution Office”.
The members of the Working Group expressed their appreciation with the presentation and agreed to continue exchanging capacities and capabilities on the issue. The participants also recognized that their works are useful for each other and decided to continue to exchange information with a view to harmonize efforts in the close future.
10- MLA REQUEST FORMS TEMPLATES:
Mr. Juan Emilio Oviedo from Paraguay agreed to distribute electronically the template form for mutual legal assistance requests prepared by the Ibero-American Association of Public Prosecutors for comments and suggestions of the working group.
11- NEXT WORKING GROUP MEETING:
Finally, it was agreed that the next Working Group meeting should be held in Washington D.C., preferably around January, 2005.
His Excellency Ambassador Paul Durand of the Canadian Permanent Mission to the OAS encouraged all experts present to continue the important task and work that the Group has been achieving in relation with the III Summit of the Americas’ Plan of Action. The experts and the member of the missions congratulated Canada and the Canadian Department of Justice, as well as the original members of the Working Group, for their excellent contribution and for all the work completed since its establishment at REMJA-III in 2000. They also stressed the need that the Group, which started as a pilot experience, be fully integrated and institutionalized to the OAS in order to assure its continuity while opening the possibility of all member states to become part of its work.
The Working Group Coordinator, Mr. Pierre-Gilles Bélanger, agreed to submit a project on the revitalization of the WG on MLA in consultation with other members of the WG and in collaboration with Dr. Jean Michel Arrighi and the Department for Legal Affairs and Services of the OAS, in order to the Fourth Summit of the Americas to consolidate the different areas of the project at hemispheric level.
 Experts and Representatives of OAS Missions from Argentina, The Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Paraguay and The United States were present at the Meeting.