Final report of the fourth meeting of ministers of justice or of ministers or attorneys general of the americas

Second Summit of the Americas (Santiago, Chile, 1998)

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2. Second Summit of the Americas (Santiago, Chile, 1998)

In April 1998, a meeting of government experts was held to include basic justice-sector issues on the agenda for the Second Summit of the Americas, held that month in Santiago, Chile.

The Heads of State and Government meeting at that Summit adopted a Plan of Action containing the following decisions pertaining to the “Strengthening of Justice Systems and Judiciaries”:
1. “Develop mechanisms that permit easy and timely access to justice by all persons, with particular reference to persons with low income, by adopting measures to enhance the transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of the courts. In this context, they will promote, develop and integrate the use of alternative methods of conflict resolution in the justice system.”

  1. “Strengthen, as appropriate, systems of criminal justice founded on the independence of the judiciary and the effectiveness of public prosecutors and defense counsels, recognizing the special importance of the introduction of oral proceedings in those countries that consider it necessary to implement this reform.”

3. “Step up efforts to combat organized crime, and transnational crime, and, if necessary, foster new laws and international conventions, as well as procedures and mechanisms for continuing to combat these scourges.”

4. “Adapt legislation and proceed, as soon as possible, with necessary institutional reforms and measures to guarantee the comprehensive protection of the rights of children and youths to meet the obligations established under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments.”
5. “Adopt as appropriate a clear distinction between procedures and consequences of violations of criminal law and measures established to protect children and youths whose rights are threatened or violated, and will promote social and educational measures to rehabilitate young offenders.”

6. “Foster the establishment and strengthening of specialized tribunals or courts for family matters, as appropriate, and in accordance with their respective legal systems.”

7. “Expedite the establishment of a justice studies center of the Americas, which will facilitate training of justice sector personnel, the exchange of information and other forms of technical cooperation in the Hemisphere, in response to particular requirements of each country. To this end, they request the Ministers of Justice or other competent authorities to analyze and define the most suitable actions for the organization and establishment for such a center.”
8. “Promote, in accordance with the legislation of each country, mutual legal and judicial assistance that is effective and responsive, particularly with respect to extraditions, requests for the delivery of documents and other evidentiary materials, and other bilateral or multilateral exchanges in this field, such as witness protection arrangements.”
9. “Support the convening of periodic meetings of Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General of the Hemisphere within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS).”
This last initiative was subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, in June 1998.

3. Dialogue on the topic of administration of justice in the Americas. General Assembly of the OAS (Caracas, Venezuela, June 1998)

At the twenty-eighth regular session of the General Assembly (Caracas, Venezuela, June 1998), the President of the Assembly, Miguel Angel Burelli Rivas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, presented a summary of the dialogue on the topic of the administration of justice in the Americas, which contained the following ideas:

 The administration of justice has become a top priority issue.

  • Politicization of the judicial system has been identified as a major problem.

  • The main objectives are: real separation of powers and a depoliticized and efficient judicial system.

  • Administration of justice is to be conceived of as an inalienable responsibility of States.

  • Nonetheless, it is accepted that the OAS can play an important part in supporting the creation and promotion of better judicial systems, at both the national and international level.

  • It was pointed out that the OAS must find a sphere of action that is in tune with current needs and in keeping with the Organization’s abilities and resources.

  • That sphere of action must involve substantive issues (trade legislation) and real follow-through.

  • Subject to the availability of resources, among the many specific tasks suggested for the OAS were:

  • Having a working group draw up a strategic plan

  • Creation of an Inter-American Studies Center

  • Evaluation of international cooperation instruments

  • Ongoing support for meetings of Ministers of Justice

  • Exchanges of information regarding training in the judiciary

  • Expanding the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

At that session, the General Assembly adopted resolution AG/RES. 1481 (XXVIII-O/98), “Enhancement of the Administration of Justice in the Americas,” in which it resolved, inter alia, to receive with satisfaction the report of the Permanent Council on the enhancement of the administration of justice in the Americas.

4. Second Meeting of Ministers of Justice or of Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas (Lima, Peru, March 1999)

Bearing in mind the report of the Permanent Council and the final report of the Meeting of Ministers of Justice, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the General Assembly decided, in resolution AG/RES. 1562 (XXVIII-O/98),2/ to convene the Second Meeting of Ministers of Justice or Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas.

At its meeting on November 10, 1998, the Council approved resolution CP/RES.737 (1176/98), which set March 1 to 3 as the dates for the above-mentioned meeting.
At its meeting on October 9, 1998, the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs took note of the draft agenda, submitted by Ambassador Beatriz Ramacciotti, Permanent Mission of Peru, for the Second Meeting of Ministers of Justice or of Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas.3/
Accordingly, the Permanent Council, having seen the report of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs4/, at its meeting of December 11, 1998, through resolution CP/RES. 739 (1179/98), adopted the following agenda for the Second Meeting of Ministers of Justice or of Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas:
Dialogue of Ministers of Justice or of Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas and/or heads of delegation
Topic for discussion: Modernization and strengthening of the justice systems in the Americas: exchange of experiences, new developments, and courses of action at the national and international levels


  1. Access to justice

    1. Legal aid and defense services

    2. Initiatives for the legal protection of minors

    3. Incorporation of alternative conflict settlement methods in national administration-of-justice systems

  1. Training of judges, prosecutors, and judicial officials

    1. Experiences acquired in basic, advanced, and specialized training of judiciary personnel

    2. Mechanisms to promote judicial independence and the effectiveness of public prosecutors or attorneys general

    3. Creation of a center for judicial studies in the Americas

  1. Prison and penitentiary policy

    1. Modernization of the sector and the improvement of new legal frameworks

    2. New developments in criminal procedure

    3. Regional cooperation mechanisms

  1. Strengthening and developing inter-American cooperation

    1. Fighting organized crime and transnational crime, including cyber-crime (domestic legislation, degree of effective application and implementation of international instruments in this area, procedures, and national experiences, etc.)

    2. Legal and judicial cooperation (inter-American treaties; other mechanisms; extradition; information sharing; submission of documents and other types of evidence; witness protection agreements, etc.)

Conclusions and Recommendations
The Second Meeting of Ministers of Justice or of Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas was held on the dates set by the Permanent Council, in March 1999, in Lima, Peru. The Second Meeting of Ministers of Justice, on concluding consideration of its agenda, adopted the following conclusions and recommendations:
I. Access to Justice

  1. To continue with the exchange of experiences regarding measures and initiatives adopted at the domestic level, as well as progress achieved and obstacles encountered by the OAS member states in relation to the problem of access to justice in their respective countries; improvement of legal aid and defense services; legal protection of minors; and incorporation of alternative dispute resolution methods in national administration-of-justice systems.

  1. To further those ends, clear identification will be made of the applicable cooperation mechanisms in these areas, and the following actions, inter alia, undertaken: compilation of the legislation in force regarding these matters, with a view to creating a database; comparative studies; and preparation of a list of countries and institutions that are in a position to provide international cooperation in these areas.

II. Training of judges, prosecutors, and judicial officials

A. Justice Studies Center of the Americas
With a view to the establishment of the Justice Studies Center envisioned in the Plan of Action of the Second Summit of the Americas; and taking into account the different legal systems in the Hemisphere, it is decided:

  1. That the objectives of the center will be to facilitate:

    1. The training of justice sector personnel;

    2. The exchange of information and other forms of technical cooperation;

    3. Support for the reform and modernization of justice systems in the region.

  1. That a group of government experts, open to participation by all delegations, will be formed to:

  1. Prepare draft by-laws;

  2. Prepare a work plan;

  3. Identify public and/or private institutions working in this area;

  4. Establish appropriate links with international organizations in order to secure the necessary technical support for the Center’s operations.

  1. That the Center’s work plan, in the initial phase, will focus on criminal justice matters.

  1. That the group of experts shall conclude its work before September 21, 1999.

  1. To request that the OAS provide the necessary support for the work of the group of experts.

B. Regional courses, workshops, and seminars
To continue to cooperate with the OAS General Secretariat by organizing regional or subregional courses, workshops, and seminars to train and develop the legal skills of officials in charge of the justice system in the OAS member states in collaboration with international or national, governmental or nongovernmental institutions.

III. Strengthening and developing inter-American cooperation

A. To strengthen international cooperation in areas of special concern, such as the struggle against terrorism, combating corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking, forgery, illicit trafficking in firearms, organized crime, and transnational criminal activity.
B. Cyber-crime
Because of the importance and difficulty of the issues presented by cyber-crime, and the spread and potential magnitude of the problems it poses for our countries, it is recommended to establish an intergovernmental expert group, within the framework of the OAS, with a mandate to:

  1. Complete a diagnosis of criminal activity which targets computers and information, or which uses computers as the means of committing an offense;

  2. Complete a diagnosis of national legislation, policies and practices regarding such activity;

  3. Identify national and international entities with relevant expertise; and

  4. Identify mechanisms of cooperation within the inter-American system to combat cyber-crime.

The government expert group should present a report to the Third Meeting of Ministers of Justice or Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas.

  1. To continue working in an effective and flexible manner to strengthen mutual legal and judicial assistance among the OAS member states, particularly with respect to extradition, requests for delivery of documents and other forms of evidence and the establishment of secure and prompt channels of communications between central authorities.

  1. To evaluate the application of inter-American conventions in force in the area of legal and judicial cooperation, in order to identify measures for their effective implementation or, if appropriate, to determine whether the existing legal framework in the hemisphere should be changed.

  1. To urge OAS member states that are parties to treaties for legal and judicial cooperation to appoint Central Authorities where they have not yet done so, to ensure the effective implementation of these treaties.

  1. To recommend that the OAS convene a meeting of central authorities in due course to strengthen cooperation among those authorities in relation to the various conventions on the subject of legal and judicial cooperation.

  1. Extradition, forfeiture of assets, and mutual legal assistance. Recognizing the need to strengthen and facilitate legal and judicial cooperation in the Americas with regard to extradition, forfeiture of assets and mutual legal assistance, and to enhance individual and international efforts against organized crime and transnational criminal activity through improved intergovernmental communication and understanding, we commit ourselves to exchange information, through the OAS, on the following matters in order to deal with them at the Third Meeting of Ministers:

                  1. Extradition “checklists”, glossaries of commonly-used legal terms, and similar instruments of simplified guidance and explanation on extradition and related processes;

                  2. Sample forms for intergovernmental requests for mutual legal assistance;

                  3. Instructional materials on the best methods for securing bilateral and international assistance in the area of forfeiture of assets.

In order to facilitate this work, we will immediately begin to compile a list of contact points for information on extradition, mutual legal assistance, and forfeiture of assets.

IV. Prison and penitentiary policy
To reiterate the need to promote the exchange of national experience and technical cooperation in prison and penitentiary policy matters within the framework of the OAS.

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