Updated June 7, 2001

Second Summit of the Americas

STRENGTHENING OF JUSTICE SYSTEMS AND JUDICIARIES

World Bank Group:  Law and Justice

 

At the Santiago Summit, governments decided to:

Meetings of Ministers of Justice

The Secretariat for Legal affairs of the OAS has been conducting studies that will respond to the requests of the First Meeting of Ministers of Justice. It has also organized workshops and seminars to analyze mechanisms for improving the administration of justice, and has assisted the Inter-American Juridical Committee in its examination of the issue over the last few years.

The second Meeting of Ministers of Justice was held in Lima, Peru, March 1-3, 1999.  During the three day conference, the Ministers and Attorneys General of the Hemisphere debated key issues concerning the strengthening of the administration of justice in their countries and throughout the Americas.  Working groups enabled them to exchange opinions and experiences on many important issues such as: universal access to independent, credible and efficient systems of justice; judicial access for the Hemisphere's poorest citizens and most marginalized groups; judicial training; legal cooperation and exchanges on matters of jurisprudence; and, cooperation on new matters of criminal activity which require common political solutions, such as crimes committed over the Internet.

An important step towards fulfilling one of the mandates of the Second Summit of the Americas was made at the meeting when the Ministers and Attorneys General decided to move towards the establishment of a "justice studies center of the Americas".  A working group of government experts would be responsible for determining the structure of the center and for providing statutes for its operation.    U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno (Department of Justice), announced that her government would provide $1 million for the establishment of the Center.

The OAS' Secretariat for Legal Affairs prepared the technical documents for the Ministerial, and has prepared the final report of the meeting.  Aside from information on strengthening justice in the Americas, the report contains Secretary General César Gaviria's opening remarks, as well as the speech delivered by the President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori.

Creation of the Justice Studies Center

The First Meeting of Governmental Experts on the creation of the Justice Studies Center of the Americas took place May 10, 1999 at OAS Headquarters in Washington D.C.   At the meeting, participants established the nature and work plan for the Study Center.  It was decided that  the Center should include all OAS member States, that it should have technical and operative autonomy within the authority determined in its statute, and that it should take into account the different judicial systems in the hemisphere.  This would include Common Law an Civil Law.  In terms of the work plan, those present decided to focus on the development of issues related to criminal justice, to facilitate the exchange of information with respect to national experiences, to compile and divulge national legislation, as well as to support the efforts made regarding Inter-American judicial and juridical cooperation.

Over the course of a number of other meetings of Government Experts, the member States defined the nature and functions of the Center.  The member States approved a set of Draft Statutes for the Justice Studies Center at a Special Session of the OAS General Assembly on November 15, 1999.  The proposed Statutes are to be considered for approval by the Ministers of Justice at their Third meeting, which will be held in Costa Rica in March of 2000.

For more information, please look at the report of the Chair of the Working Group in charge of implementing the recommendations of the Meetings of Ministers of Justice or Attorneys General of the Americas.

Cybernetic Crime

Regarding the mandate of the Ministers of Justice on studying cybernetic crime, the Special Working Group charged with implementing the recommendations of the Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General of the Americas on this issue received answers to government questionnaires.  The Group met on October 14 and 15, 1999 to review a preliminary report prepared by Government Experts and to hear from representatives of the private sector including CitiGroup, America Online, Computer Emergency Response Team, Bell Labs and representatives of the FBI.

The Government Experts recommended that the member States establish a public institution which would be responsible for investigating and prosecuting cybernetic crimes.  They also ordered member States to take measures to harmonize their national legislation on the subject, which would facilitate international cooperation to fight this type of crime.

Crime and Prevention of Delinquency

On April 19 and 20, 1999 in Medellin, Colombia, Government Experts discussed taking cooperative measures to fight against crime and delinquency.  The Secretary General of the OAS delivered some remarks (Spanish only) at the meeting.  There was also discussion of topics such as: measuring crime and violence; policies that address crime and violence; police training, criminology and criminal investigations; the establishment of cooperation mechanisms with other multilateral entities, governments, private foundations, and non-governmental organizations; and, the exchange of legislative and practical experiences in the area.

Throughout the presentations given by the different members of the Group of Experts, importance was placed on this topic's relation with the strengthening of democratic systems and the rule of law. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of reviewing results to combat crime and on fostering a culture of legality through the establishment of educational programs in American schools.

The following are the main recommendations made by the different members of the Group of Experts:

1. Member States should join forces to combat crime and prevent the myriad manifestations of delinquency.

2. The adoption by member States of comprehensive support policies for the most vulnerable families and sectors of society, in particular the young, women, and children, should be a fundamental component of any national strategy and cooperative efforts to combat delinquency and prevent crime.

3. The participation of civil society in supporting programs and campaigns conducted by the authorities of each country to combat crime and delinquency should be encouraged.

4. The Organization of American States can play an important role in supporting national efforts to combat crime. To that end, it is recommended that the OAS review the possibility of developing, in keeping with the resources allocated in the program-budget and other resources, a series of activities aimed at facilitating the exchange of experiences and information in the following areas, among others:

a. Preventive policies and programs applied by member States.

b. Training in the area of police work, criminology, and criminal investigations, and of officials working at penitentiary and post-penitentiary institutions.

c. Trends and statistics that shape a comprehensive vision of the situation in the Hemisphere, broken down by gender.

d. Legislative and practical experiences in the area.

e. Strengthening of cooperation with multilateral agencies, governments, private foundations, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations, in order to mobilize resources and avoid the duplication of efforts.

5. The OAS General Secretariat should continue its efforts to seek the assistance and support of other multilateral entities such as the IDB, the World Bank, and PAHO, as well OAS Permanent Observers, with a view to the development of the activities proposed, pursuant to the mandate of the General Assembly. (For more information please click here [Spanish only]).

III Meeting of Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General, San Jose, Costa Rica, March 1-3,2000

During III Ministerial Meeting of Justice of the Attorney Generals of the Americas, inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Dr. Miguel Angel Rodríguez, (see speech), many of the items contained in the mandates of the Santiago Summit Plan of Action on strengthening justice systems and judiciaries were implemented.

One of the most important achievements was the formal selection of Santiago, Chile, as the city for the headquarters for the Justice Studies Center of the Americas. Statues and an Executive Board have already been approved for the Center.

Nonetheless, since the Center still needs a set of rules of operation, the Ministers requested that the Secretariat for Legal Affairs produce a set of draft rules. The Ministers also agreed that the Center's Executive Board should propose a candidate to serve as Executive Secretary. 

In addition, Ministers approved a series of concrete proposals for collective action to press forward the themes of judicial and juridical cooperation, primarily in the areas of extradition and cyber-crime.

The general discussion of the Ministers and Attorneys General reflected the growing need for hemispheric cooperation not only as a concern of national interests, but also because of the growing complexity and transnational nature of many of the issues. Addressing these has ceased to be exclusively a domestic effort. Therefore, the Ministers emphasized the relevance of exchanging experiences as well as the support of the OAS and other international institutions in the modernization of the justice systems.

In San Jose,  twenty-four delegations, almost all of which were headed by Ministers of Justice, Attorneys General, or Vice Ministers, discussed possibilities for cooperation, multilateral agreements, and the creation of specialized working groups in the OAS, which would address matters such as:

It should be noted that various non-governmental organizations participated in the Ministerial meeting; some in the meeting itself, and others in an informal session. The organizations informed of their work supporting the governments, primarily on matters linked to prison policies. They also provided a wide range of information on national experiences on various matters of the agenda.

During the closing ceremony, held at the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States made a speech highlighting the results of the meeting and the new role of the Organization in it.

Please see the Final Report of the Third Meeting of Ministers of Justice for additional information.  See also the Report of the Board of Directors on the Justice Studies Center for the Americas.

XXX OAS General Assembly

During the XXX OAS General Assembly, held in Windsor, Canada, in June 2000, Governments approved two resolutions regarding these initiative. The first resolution "Meeting of Ministers of Justice or of Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas" transmits the conclusions and recommendations of the Third Meeting of Ministers of Justice to the organs, agencies, and entities of the inter-American system, for their implementation.

The second resolution "Follow-up to the recommendations and conclusions of the Third Meeting of Ministers of Justice or of Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas" instructs the OAS to continue the work of the Special Group in order to facilitate the implementation of the conclusions and recommendations adopted during the Ministerial meeting mentioned above.

The mandates and initiatives for justice were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas.  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities in strengthening justice systems and judiciaries, please click here.

Updated June 7, 2001

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