13 May 2021
Posteado en : Interview
Interview with Javier Samper, head of the Support Unit with the General Directorate of International Legal Cooperation and Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice, on the international cooperation work undertaken by the Ministry of Justice with FIIAPP.
What does the Ministry of Justice do? What institutions does it cover?
The work of the Ministry of Justice, in relation to FIIAPP, is complex and has several different and distinct facets. On the one hand, logically, the Ministry of Justice is basically an actor in development cooperation. The Ministry of Justice is also entrusted with a coordinating role, that is, it works with other actors that are also essential for any development cooperation project in the field of justice, such as the General Council of the Judiciary, the State General Prosecutor’s Office, the Spanish General Bar Association, notaries and registrars.
Why is it important for the Ministry of Justice to be involved in international cooperation projects? What does it contribute?
The experts at the Ministry of Justice are important in very diverse situations. It is also one of the competences of the Ministry of Justice. In other words, it is part of the work carried out by the Ministry of Justice and it is an issue that is included in our planning, our actions and ,of course, that is included in the strategy of the Ministry of Justice abroad.
The Ministry of Justice works on projects managed by FIIAPP. How long have they worked together and how is the relationship between FIIAPP and the Ministry?
I would say that the relationship between FIIAPP and MINJUS is excellent, it is very streamlined, which is essential. We work hand in hand with the Justice and Rule of Law area and, as a public institution, I would say that the relationship began the moment FIIAPP was created. I am aware that from the moment FIIAPP became involved in the twinning programmes, which are managed by the European Commission’s NEAR DG, twinning programmes have been led by the Ministry of Justice.
One of the main projects on which FIIAPP works with the Ministry of Justice is EL PAcCTO, what does this project involve?
El PAcCTO is a programme with an innovative approach to international legal cooperation or international cooperation in the fight against organised crime in Latin America, but also with a Euro-Latin American perspective. It is not only about improving the approach taken by public administrations and public powers in Latin America. In fact, it is also about building the working relationship, the cooperative relationship that exists between Latin American and European institutions.
As well as El PAcCTO, the Ministry of Justice works with FIIAPP on other projects. Could you tell us about some of its achievements?
At the moment we have a great relationship with Turkey, where we are currently working on three training projects for judges and prosecutors, civil enforcement offices and also, on advanced forensic analytical methods involving the Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences attached to the Ministry of Justice. In addition, there are, of course, several projects that are particularly significant to us because of the strategic importance of the subject at hand, and because it also has a novel approach. For example, the I-CRIME project, which mainly deals with the fight against organised crime in Central American countries.
By participating in cooperation projects, the Ministry of Justice shares its knowledge with its counterpart institutions, but are there also lessons to be learned?
Basically, the work is done by specific experts who travel to the beneficiary countries with the idea of transferring the knowledge and experiences that the Spanish administration has been accumulating over an extensive period, which, I believe, is highly valued abroad. The specialist comes back, not only with a large number of personal contacts in foreign administrations, which are then always enormously beneficial because they sometimes allow us to streamline procedures or use ideas, make consultations, etc. In addition, their work has forced them to analyse their situation, the situation in other states, a comparative analysis by gathering opinions from all kinds of specialists, from a multidisciplinary perspective. All this, logically, has a very beneficial impact when the official returns to the home administration.
What are the main challenges for justice in a globalised world?
The fight against terrorism, the financial freezing of organised crime, the fight against corruption, etc. However, I would say that all these issues have some common roots, not in terms of what happens at the beginning of the problem, but in the way of tackling them: good governance. Training in and the application of transparency measures in the adoption of public policies, this type of knowledge transfer, is what encourages and facilitates the international cooperation necessary to face all these challenges tomorrow. Which is why I believe that democratic governance is possibly our main challenge.
19 September 2019
These projects, financed by the European Union and in whose management the FIIAPP participates, hold a high-level bi-regional conference today in Montevideo on alternative measures to the deprivation of liberty
With the presence of numerous European and Latin American authorities, COPOLAD, EL PAcCTO and EUROsociAL+ combine efforts, work, discourse and media in this conference with the aim of achieving a greater impact of the issue on society.
The conference was closed with a broad agreement formalised in a joint declaration ratified by all the representatives of the participating Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as by the European Union and by the three regional cooperation programmes organising the event: COPOLAD II, THE COURT and EUROsociAL+.
Each from its perspective, in this post the three projects highlight the common dimension that they share around alternative measures to imprisonment.
COPOLAD and the importance of coordination between institutions
In recent years, several alternative measures to prison have shown encouraging results by reducing, in some prisons, the overpopulation and with it, the problems associated with this situation. The lecture will explain the main lines of action in this area, which have shown positive results, consistently and in different social contexts, in relation to overcrowding and in addressing other associated problems. In this context, and in order to explore the successful alternatives implemented in some countries and the evaluation of their benefits, an aspect that is common, basic and essential for ensuring success in the application of any alternative measure will be considered.
This key factor is the need for inter-institutional coordination, a concept that is easy to formulate but more complex to apply. Inter-institutional coordination has proven to be at the centre of any action that promotes the development of public policies in the field of alternatives to prison if they are to be effective (evidence-based), efficient and aligned with development goals, especially the protection of human rights, the empowerment of women, the promotion of public health and good governance.
With this in mind, the conference will provide an opportunity to look more in-depth at what inter-institutional coordination means in this area, the implications of facing the many challenges of developing and managing opportunities and the coordination mechanisms (multisectoral platforms and tools) that must exist to improve horizontal cooperation between the judicial system and the security forces, as well as between social and healthcare services.
Teresa Salvador-Llivina is director of COPOLAD and Claudia Liebers is responsible for Institutional Relations and Project Strategy.
EL PAcCTO: the relationship between alternative measures to prison and organised crime
Worldwide, and Latin America is no exception, many states have a prison overpopulation that sometimes reaches alarming levels. Overcrowding is an evil in itself, since in addition to affecting the human dignity of persons deprived of liberty, it prevents or greatly complicates the correct implementation of social reintegration programmes, the physical separation between dangerous detainees and minor criminals or first-time offenders.
Numerous international studies underline that prison cannot be the only solution for dealing with crime and show that, frequently, it becomes a crime school, favouring the proliferation of criminal groups that act inside and outside the detention centres, putting the safety of convicts and society as a whole at risk. There are several criminal organisations that have emerged and have been strengthened in the prison environment, taking advantage of the weaknesses of the systems due to high overpopulation.
Therefore, one of the main concerns of EL PAcCTO is the need to support the execution and use of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, considering them as essential to easing congestion in prison systems and focusing attention on the most dangerous persons deprived of their liberty, who can recruit followers in prisons. For these reasons, we consider that the measures are also an essential tool for the fight against organised crime.
In addition, alternative measures are a transversal issue that need a holistic approach, strong coordination and lead to cultural change and a shared approach among all the actors involved also in terms of external communication.
Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini is the coordinator of the EL PAcCTO Prison systems component, Lorenzo Tordelli is the thematic co-coordinator-manager and Nathalie Boissou is the deputy coordinator.
EUROsociAL + , favouring social insertion and the abandoning of crime
In Montevideo, the EUROsociAL+ programmes, together with El PACcTO and COPOLAD, are currently organising a bi-regional conference on alternative measures to deprivation of liberty. All three, each from its own perspective, have addressed this issue, converging on common problems that make us work in the same direction.
Imprisonment as a penalty, which should be a last resort, has been used indiscriminately in Latin America. There has been an exponential growth in the prison population in recent decades. This overpopulation, which has caused problems of overcrowding, health, and violence, has been questioned to the extent that it has shown not to be able to favour social insertion processes, nor has it had a deterrent effect reducing re-offending, or positive effects on social rehabilitation
The social cohesion approach, which the EUROsociAL+ programme promotes, is closely linked to the development and use of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, not only because inequality contributes to violence, and this in a programme that aims to reduce all kinds of inequalities, but because in their eagerness to “leave no-one behind”, the question that should interest us above all is not why do criminals commit crimes? but why do they stop committing crimes? The search for actions that favour the decision to abandon crime is the key in the processes of social insertion of offenders and in alternative measures.
A special focus will be given to women deprived of their liberty in this conference. Despite the fact that the percentage is much lower than that of men, the number of women imprisoned in the region has almost tripled in recent decades. This growth is very fast and proportionally much higher than that of men. These trends should be a concern for governments and the prison system, still lacking or indifferent in dealing with the specific needs of women. It is urgent, therefore, to incorporate the gender perspective.
Of course, the application of alternative measures cannot be incorporated without the backing of reliable administrative action. Implementation requires a framework of action with rehabilitative measures that allow judges to give real consideration and offenders to take responsibility for their actions and change and abandon crime.
Sonia González Fuentes is coordinator of the Democratic Governance policy area of EUROsociAL+ at FIIAPP.
12 September 2019
On the occasion of the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, to be held on 16 September, Marc Reina, manager of the Police Cooperation Component of EL PAcCTO, reflects on the need for a strategic and operational framework for a more comprehensive, coordinated and multinational work against environmental crimes.
Representing an illegal business worth between 110 and 281 million dollars in 2018, according to estimates made by Interpol and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), environmental crimes have become the third most lucrative stream of illegal revenue in the world, after drugs and counterfeit goods.
These figures have increased exponentially in recent years, growing by several digits, assisted by an inadequate regulatory system and an offence classification and punishment system which often treats them as civil rather than criminal matters. In addition, allocating police and judicial investigation resources to other areas, such as drug and trafficking in human beings, as well as treating environmental crimes as low risk compared to other types of crime, has created a breeding ground for criminal activity. These organisations engage in illegal mining, deforestation and wildlife trafficking, among other practices, and encourage other crimes such as corruption, money laundering, the hiring of hit men and sexual and worker exploitation.
Bearing in mind that Latin America represents more than 40% of the world’s biodiversity and that the geographic and political complexity of the region makes effective territorial control by States difficult, the fight against environmental crimes as a whole is a herculean task.
Thus, it is necessary to develop strategic and operational actions at various levels. On the one hand, strategic development must necessarily entail the creation of an international regulatory framework, either by means of protocols annexed to important conventions such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Convention), or by creating a new international treaty to serve as an umbrella to protect the environment and provide means for addressing environmental crimes.
On the other hand, at an operational level and in line with the conclusions and commitments of the Heads of State and the Ministers of the Interior of the seven largest economies in the world, who met at the G7 on the 4th and 5th of April, 2019, in France, efficient coordination mechanisms and police and judicial cooperation, both national and regional, is required; as well as the creation of specialised multidisciplinary Task Forces and Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). In this regard, the European Union has a significant comparative advantage over other regions, having fostered the development of institutions whose main purposes are coordination, exchange of information and inter-institutional and inter-country work. Examples of this are Europol and Eurojust.
National agreements against environmental crimes
However, in my opinion, the most efficient but perhaps most complex action is the search for strategic alliances and National agreements to develop comprehensive public policies. These policies would both prevent and establish the criminal nature of environmental crime, and would include important aspects of the fight against poverty, gender perspectives, the promotion of entrepreneurship, promotion of culture and education.
National agreements, together with their public policies, must have a majority consensus of the population and be governed by five basic principles: a willingness to provide financing and specific budgets; control and inspection; transparency; good execution; and, citizen accountability.
In this sense, Latin America has an opportunity, the experience and a duty to take on international leadership when it comes to developing comprehensive public policies to fight environmental crimes more effectively, fostering the transition to a green and responsible economy, as well as sustainable economic growth to generate business and to boost development in communities which are directly dependent on specific ecosystems for their survival.
This applies to a significant percentage of approximately 60 million people who consider themselves indigenous in the Latin American region. Many of them live in the Amazon basin, which has lost 20% of its biodiversity in the last 50 years according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, 2018), for reasons linked to overexploitation and organised crime.
Because of their way of life and their number, these communities are key not only to changing economic and human development in many countries, but also to developing new approaches to sustainable economic development, the fight against environmental crime and climate change, taking into account the collaboration between civil society, private companies with corporate social responsibility and the State.
Economic development vs. protection of natural resources
At this point, it is necessary to highlight the dichotomy between, on the one hand, excessive economic development at any cost; and, on the other, protection of natural resources. It should be noted that, in part, the increase in illegal extraction of raw materials and deforestation to create of large areas of animal pasture and plantations has been caused by an unbridled increase consumption by humans.
We have to acknowledge that there are organised criminal groups behind these crimes because there is a specific demand in this regard. Voluntarily or involuntarily. Whether or not the demand is aware of the connection between violence and crime.
It is clear that all countries and societies in the world have the right, but not the obligation, to economic, cultural, and intellectual development. However, as the impact of climate change is more than evident, we must consider the need to change an unbridled system of economic growth, that allows the emergence of numerous crimes which will end up contributing to climate change and growing violence in countries.
Therefore, it is necessary to balance frenetic human consumption with the protection of the environment.
Marc Reina, Manager of the Police Cooperation Component of EL PAcCTO
22 August 2019
Sandra Zayas, prosecutor of Guatemala and EL PAcCTO collaborator talks about developments in the role of female gang members in Central America
Prevention: a priority
Prevention. This is the area we must focus on in Central American countries because, mathematically, three of the six countries in the region have had a problem with gangs for many years and the situation is emerging in the other three, meaning they will be able to achieve very different results if they work on social prevention and crime.
When you look at the active participation of female gang members, it has changed a lot: from women being the victims of coercion to actually joining these criminal groups. In some countries in the region, they have even become responsible for areas such as logistics and finance.
We must not forget to differentiate between gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, some very powerful such as Mara SalvaTrucha and Barrio 18, and mafia-related gangs in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, some emerging and others with very specific purposes.
Gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have more female gang members and several studies on this topic have found that Guatemala is the Central American country with the highest rate of gender inequality, classified as “high”, El Salvador and Honduras as “medium”, and Costa Rica and Panama as “low.” This means fewer job opportunities, less parity, a more serious social gender problem. This gender inequality in our countries coincides with the facts presented at the Workshop on Female Gang members held this spring in San Salvador and organised by EL PAcCTO, a project funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP and Expertise France, with support from IILA and the Camões Institute.
It is necessary to distinguish between female participation in gangs as perpetrators, accomplices or to cover up crimes by establishing different penalties for each case. We would also highlight that, in matters of drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering, female gang members take part in activities necessary to commit one or more crimes.
In addition, drug trafficking crimes have led to extortion and murder (“hitmen”) in many of our countries, where female gang members are heavily involved. In Guatemala, there have already been three cases of female gang members who have set off grenades on public transport buses. Therefore, the participation of female gang members in criminal organisations is a fact.
When it comes to the police, prosecutors and judges, there is no evidence that they distinguish between women and female gang members, with the exception of El Salvador and Costa Rica, where they have innovative internal protocols for treating female members of organised crime.
Female gang members in prisons
The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and the Non-custodial measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) recommend reducing imprisonment sentences for women through corrective measures without custody, taking into account maternity, the separation of mothers from minor children or even mothers who are being held with their children in prison centres. Once again, Costa Rica has managed to reduce the number of women prisoners, taking these criteria into account and using alternative measures to prison in all cases of women who are deprived of liberty. The other countries of the Isthmus only separate the women belonging to different gangs in different prisons in case of conflict between rival gangs. Then there is the matter of the non-existence of positive social reintegration for both women and men in most countries. It is more difficult to reintegrate female gang members into society, especially with an “aggravating factor” when gang women are protected witnesses or effective collaborators, betraying their “family”, their “gang”.
There is little money allocated to invest in this type of problems, total or little political will to create positive regulations, and shared indicators and statistics throughout the legal systems. Specialised means of investigation and above all, a desire for change are also required.
We know that we need intelligence offices, inter-institutional protocols, committed administrators of justice with sufficient tools to act effectively, inter-institutional and international cooperation, data registers and specific indicators for the problems to be solved, because all of this needs to be measurable.
I conclude therefore with the 5Ws: What do we need to do? Work on this problem before it spreads to other countries and becomes as serious as it already is in some regions. How? By working together with defined government policies, with intelligence, registers and measurements. Why? For a better future for our countries. Who? All the inhabitants who love their country. Where? Around the world and when? Right now.
29 November 2018
Antonio Roma, coordinator of cooperation between justice systems at EL PAcCTO, reflects on the role and value of international judicial cooperation within the framework of the project
Today, international judicial cooperation is a necessity for all countries. In particular, if we talk about the European system, we have gone from cooperation between states to cooperation between judges of states, without the need to go through a centralised control system of administrative authorities. In that regard, in Europe, we therefore have extensive experience based on a principle of integration.
With the objective of developing this integration, at EL PAcCTO—a project financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, and in collaboration with the Italo-Latin American Institute and the Camões Institute of Portugal—we work to strengthen effective judicial cooperation with Latin America. The region is full of professionals—true professionals, for that matter—who work in their respective countries and who are highly competent. However, the structures they have for working in international judicial cooperation remain very dependent on cooperation between states. At EL PAcCTO, we can go as far as the will of the states determines, since it is an on-demand project.
In any case, we are making a very strong commitment to facilitating cooperation systems, by increasing the acts of cooperation available to them. It is not about allowing them to help foreign judges or foreign prosecutors, but about giving them the best conditions to request help abroad: to open their borders to the world in order to receive information and investigate the crimes they are dealing with.
We are working through several lines: for example, we are facilitating an update of international cooperation laws to give them access to the new techniques that inevitably arrive. The truth is that crime advances so fast, money moves so fast, and the perpetrators of crimes cross borders so quickly, that any attempt to continue with a scheme based on cooperation between states typical of the mid-twentieth century leads to few results.
Organised crime requires being very up-to-date, and to achieve this, picking up the pace is very important. For this reason, we are working on the creation of joint investigation teams and other innovative cooperation techniques between states, and also in relation to cybercrime, because the existing forms of cooperation in this area, such as instant contacts between the state police and fiscal authorities, are in need of an update.
We are also establishing a line of work that is being used by different nations to facilitate computer technical systems. In this way, the system users, i.e. the prosecutor or the policeman who is on the last corner of the state border, will have the mechanisms to not only get the information, but also the facility to prepare cooperation events with other states. All of this will be made simple, facilitating the work of all parties and ultimately promoting greater international cooperation between them.
In short, EL PAcCTO is not based on training courses or on knowledge updates; instead we seek to have an effect which is as direct and practical as possible and, therefore, to learn by doing but also and, above all, by improving structures, systems and techniques.
18 October 2018
Posteado en : Reportage
The EU organises activities as part of European Cybsersecurity Month, an issue on which EL PAcCTO is working against organised crime
Changing passwords, configuring privacy settings and purchasing antivirus software are the necessary steps par excellence before browsing the internet. These steps are increasingly important to avoid the risks and dangers to which we are exposed on the internet and which require constantly updated information.
For this reason, each year the European Union organises a variety of activities, as part of European Cybersecurity Month (ECSM), that are dedicated to sharing good practices and promoting cybersecurity among the public and organisations. The European Cybersecurity Agency (ENISA), the European Commission and some 200 partners from the entire region took part in the sixth iteration of this awareness-raising campaign.
“Cyber security is a shared responsibility— Stop. Think. Connect” is the slogan for 2018. It reflects a step prior to entering the digital world, where everything is accessible and instantaneous. Think. Think what we are sharing, what we are writing or what we are clicking on.
Are we aware?
The operations director of ENISA, Steve Purser, told La Vanguardia that it is necessary to “develop electronic common sense”. In other words, “we must behave in a similar manner in the electronic world and in the real world” and not respond or provide information without thinking what it will be used for.
This is an attitude that is taking hold of the public and making us mistrust junk mail and web pages that literally jump onto our screen. In spite of this, many users fall prey to commonplace fraud or theft, which now have their online version.
These are dangers about which Antonio Roma, coordinator of cooperation between judicial systems for EL PAcCTO, spoke, saying that the problem is that “criminals are always going to be one step ahead and find other ways of getting to us”. Real computer crimes are more serious, such as the viruses that enter our equipment through files, or mass attacks that “affect general or even national security,” said Roma.
These attacks are often beyond our control but we must also be warned about them. For this reason, the judicial coordinator of the European Union-funded programme managed by FIIAPP and Expertise France, in cooperation with the Italian-Latin American Institute (IILA) and the Instituto Camoes of Portugal, stresses that campaigns like the EU’s are necessary because they are “measures that we should remember, our knowledge should be updated, the types of threats and the public’s awareness increased”.
With this aim, some 400 activities are being organised in various European countries: talks, user-focused workshops, web seminars, campaigns, etc. Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Valencia are some of the cities chosen to alert people to “a growing phenomenon”, according to Roma. In relation to awareness raising, he stated that “it is necessary not to lose sight of the fact that having security is necessary”.
Our privacy, one click away
According to the ENISA report, published at the beginning of the year, the main threat to users is malware or “malicious software”, in which there are viruses that come to us over the internet and in emails without our knowledge.
The next danger in the ranking is computer attacks and phishing or “identity theft”, a scam to collect users’ private data, especially access to their bank accounts.
This information is frequently saved on our equipment. And it is our increased internet activity, either by opening accounts on different sites or publishing our lives on social media, that makes our privacy more and more exposed to these threats.
This risk is increased by the use of mobile phones, it is the price paid for greater accessibility. Antonia Roma emphasised, in relation to this point, the increasingly early contact of children with different devices.
“Previously, the advice was to keep the computer in the living room,” he said. This is outmoded advice regarding safeguarding their privacy in the face of the bullying taking place and, in the worst cases, child pornography. In this situation, “It is always better to alert children to how to defend themselves and that their privacy has great value,” recommended Roma.
What does cooperation offer?
The internet is a worldwide network and although the crimes may be committed from a computer close by, we can also be scammed from servers in other countries. This is where cooperation comes in. According to Roma, it is often unsuccessful, when the money from a theft ends up in “faraway countries that do not provide effective cooperation.”
Despite what are called “opaque jurisdictions”, he believes that “legal cooperation has changed” and that, for example, there are new systems for freezing IP addresses. The time factor is the major obstacle: “getting there too late” when the police do not help or are not trained. Specialisation, in conjunction with technology, are, according to Roma, the tasks that have yet to be addressed in this field.
Cybercrime and cybersecurity are topics that concern EL PAcCTO and on which work is being carried out across the board by all areas of the programme: police, courts and prisons. The EU-funded programme helps Latin American countries to combat organised crime, which also operates over the internet.
The aim is to tackle this issue at the regional level, in addition to the concerns of specific countries, by “implementing operations to see what the problems are, where the bottlenecks are, so that there can be an effective flow of cooperation.”