The second plenary session was called to order at 3:00 p.m. on March 11, 2002. It concluded its consideration of the topic of the dialogue of heads of delegation, namely, legal and judicial cooperation in fighting transnational organized crime and terrorism. In that connection, the plenary decided to take note of the comments and recommendations made in this regard by the delegations and to submit it to the Working Group entrusted with preparing the draft recommendations of REMJA-IV.
Item 1: Mutual Legal Assistance
1.1 Agreements on legal and judicial cooperation in the Americas: Applicability, implementation, and improvement of cooperation instruments at the inter-American level
The following delegations took the floor on this item: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Mexico, and Panama.
The discussion began with a presentation by the President of the Meeting, who first made a brief outline of the decisions made at previous REMJAs and then singled out from the many documents presented by the Secretariat for Legal Affairs of the General Secretariat the Draft Questionnaire on inter-American treaties on legal and judicial cooperation (REMJA-IV/doc.15/02, corr. 1). She said that the purpose of the document was to facilitate the study and evaluation of the recommendations of REMJA-I and REMJA-II on the obstacles to effective application of those treaties, as well as to identify measures for their effective application or, as appropriate, to determine the need to adjust the current legal framework in the Hemisphere.
Lastly, the President of REMJA-IV, mindful of the numerous comments made by the heads of delegation during the dialogue, said that it was necessary for the present Meeting to proceed to define a collective strategy for mutual legal assistance.
Some delegations commented on obstacles under domestic law to the protection of bank secrecy, impediments to precautionary measures, and the training of civil servants to take action in the area of mutual legal assistance.
Moreover, some delegations expressed the need to improve contact with the authorities of each state responsible for ensuring respect for the rights and obligations stemming from mutual legal assistance, the advisability of disseminating legal instruments of public international law in order to assist the countries of the region; incorporation of technological measures for the application of these treaties pursuant to the agreements of the Quebec City Summit of the Americas (2001); and the reduction of legal formalities for decision making in cases of action resulting from terrorist acts.
Note was taken of the statements made by various delegations during consideration of the topic of the dialogue of heads of delegation and confirmed during consideration of this item, to the effect that REMJA-IV should urge the governments of the member states to ratify treaties pertaining to mutual legal assistance.
4. Third plenary session
The third plenary session began at 9:30 a.m. The first issue up for consideration by the plenary was: “Agreements on legal and judicial cooperation in the Americas: Applicability, implementation, and improvement of cooperation instruments at the inter-American level.” The plenary agreed to refer the matter to the Working Group for consideration.
The next item studied was: “Information exchange network.” The head of the delegation of Canada gave a brief presentation on the technical meeting held on March 10, prior to the commencement of REMJA-IV’s work, and he presented the relevant recommendations agreed on by that meeting. The delegate of Canada requested and obtained the President’s permission for Messrs. Claude LeFrançois and Pierre-Gilles Belanger to give a PowerPoint presentation on this issue. Contributions were then made by the delegations of Paraguay and the United States. The presentation stressed the project’s usefulness and main objectives, and the delegations underscored the importance of establishing such a network. The delegation of Canada noted that the project should be expanded, but that first a meeting of experts should be held, which Canada was willing to sponsor; the delegation then extended its thanks to Dr. Jorge García González, Director of the Department of Legal Cooperation and Information of the General Secretariat’s Secretariat for Legal Affairs.
The plenary then addressed the issue: “Extradition.” The delegation of Mexico spoke in favor of introducing temporary extradition mechanisms into the Hemisphere’s legal framework and in favor of strengthening police cooperation through the central offices of INTERPOL. Emphasis was also placed on the need to provide legal alternatives for avoiding impunity in cases in which extradition is disallowed, for ensuring the strict enforcement of immigration laws, and, if applicable, for allowing the deportation of fugitives as a mechanism for streamlining law enforcement.
The President suggested that these comments be noted and that the proposals be forwarded to the Working Group for consideration.
The plenary then dealt with the following issue: “International cooperation for the repatriation of illegal funds derived from corruption.” Contributions were made by the delegations of Barbados, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay. The plenary took note of the following comments made by the delegations: (i) international cooperation should be strengthened to detect funds or resources derived from corruption and to work for their repatriation; (ii) internal legal measures should be adopted to enable assets to be seized and to allow corruption-earned funds to be repatriated; (iii) the problems of judicial conflicts and bank secrecy should be addressed; (iv) the follow-up mechanisms for the implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption should be assessed and strengthened as a means to improve hemispheric cooperation in this area; (v) efforts should be made to avoid the duplication of efforts at the international level vis-à-vis the repatriation of illicit funds from corruption, and the possibility of working in conjunction with the UN should be studied in order to ensure a global outlook instead of a merely regional perspective. In addition, a request was made for the elimination of financial paradises, and the importance of this issue among the smaller nations was underscored. During the discussion of this question, the Chair was transferred, on a temporary basis and until the end of the session, to Ms. Elizabeth Süssekind, head of the delegation of Brazil and First Vice President of the meeting. The President suggested that the plenary take note of the proposals and refer them to the Working Group.
Item 2: Improving the Administration of Justice
The plenary then studied the next issue: “Access to justice: Alternative means of conflict resolution and other mechanisms.” It took note of the comments made by the delegations of Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. At the start of the discussion, the delegate of Ecuador suggested changing the title to “Improving the Systems for the Administration of Justice,” a suggestion that was approved by the plenary. The meeting heard proposals for establishing a register of alternative conflict-solving methods within the inter-American framework, one that could accredit services provided by the centers and programs active in the area; it was suggested that the Justice Studies Center of the Americas should be studied as a possible hub for gathering this register’s information and for disseminating alternative methods around the member countries. It was also suggested that steps be taken to incorporate alternative conflict-solving methods into national legislations, and that consideration be given to the possible inclusion of those methods in public contracts. Finally, it was suggested that proposals from nongovernmental organizations be taken into consideration in these endeavors. The plenary took note of the presentations and forwarded them to the Working Group.