On May 18 and 19, 2021, the Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General of the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) participated in the Eleventh Meeting of Ministers of Justice, or Other Ministers, or Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA – XI). Ecuador hosted the virtual meeting. The Ecuadorian Attorney General, Dr. Diana Salazar, hosted the meeting.
During the meeting, the States made detailed recommendations on the use of information technologies (ICTs) in their justice systems and in international cooperation. The Justice Studies Center of the Americas (JSCA), the REMJA Working Group on Legal Cooperation in Criminal Matters, and the REMJA Working Group on Legal Cooperation against Cybercrime made presentations on the present state of affairs in the region and on their role in supporting the modernization of justice systems by, among other things, training prosecutors and judges, promoting international legal cooperation, and developing such instruments as proposed treaties, model laws, and guides to best practices.
International legal Cooperation in the Americas
REMJA XI recommends that the OAS members who have not yet become a member of the five regional cooperation agreements, do so promptly.
The meeting recommends that the Working Group on Legal Cooperation on Criminal Matters updates and considers the proposed “Protocol to the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters regarding Joint Investigation Teams” (PENAL/doc.42/18). The Working Group should evaluate incorporating in it the use of ICTs, as appropriate, and that the OAS members study the possibility of initiating formalities with the appropriate bodies so that in the future, consideration may be given to its adoption.
Legal Cooperation Against Cybercrime
REMJA-XI urges the Chair of the REMJA Working Group to convene its Tenth Meeting in the first quarter of 2022, to develop effective and inclusive strategic approaches to fight cybercrime, bearing in mind the relevance of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime in this regard; to develop national and regional cybercrime coordination, cooperation and training strategies and policies in OAS countries; and, to develop key principles for mainstreaming gender and inclusion into cybercrime capacity building efforts.
The meeting recommends that the OAS members that have not yet done so, consider evaluating to accede to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime, and adopt the legal and other measures required for its implementation.
The meeting recommends fortifying, through the REMJA Working Group, four aspects of international cooperation: (i) capacity building, (ii) cybercrime evidence gathering, (iii) legal cooperation in cybercrime, and (iv) legislative developments.
Justice Studies Center of the Americas (JSCA)
REMJA-Xi congratulates the JSCA on the work since REMJA X in evaluating criminal justice reform processes; providing technical support for the implementation of reformed criminal justice systems in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, promoting new models for the management of prosecutors’ offices with the development of capacities for criminal analysis and strategic criminal prosecution; identifying and disseminating best practices in the investigation of complex crimes; fostering the improvement of criminal defense standards; promoting pre-trial services; and developing skills for criminal litigation, for the conduct of hearings, and for appraising evidence, together with court and case management models.
The meeting congratulates the JSCA and the U.S. Government on the agreement through the Bureau of International narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the U.S. State Department to collaborate on the project Technical Support for the Implementation of the New Adversarial Criminal Justice System in Argentina’s Federal Justice System through the program Training Program on Criminal Investigation and Litigation in an Accusatory System for Justice Officials. Project implementation started in 2018 and has been extended to 2023.
Strengthening the REMJA
The meeting discusses steps to strengthen the REMJA, including that the annual OAS Regular Fund consider providing the necessary resources for holding the meetings that are to be organized within the REMJA process.
The meeting also recommends the establishment of a voluntary contribution fund into which states can make voluntary contributions to finance programs and projects in the areas covered by the REMJA process.
The current issue of the IELR (June) will discuss in more detail the decisions and implications of the decisions of REMJA-XI.