QUITO, Ecuador -- The Ninth meeting of ministers of justice or other ministers or attorneys general of the Americas (REMJA IX) concluded on Thursday with the consolidation of its role as the political and technical forum for hemispheric cooperation on justice and legal cooperation, and as a promoter of the effectiveness of the institutions it has created for the affirmation of the rule of law in the region.
REMJA stressed the importance of dialogue between the heads of delegations of the member countries of the OAS, which allowed for the sharing of valuable information on the progress made at both a national and regional level in access to justice and international legal cooperation.
The two-day meeting was held in the city of Quito, and was attended by the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, and the Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Worship of Ecuador, Johana Pesántez Benitez; as well as the ministers of justice and attorneys general of the member states of the organization, and the minister of justice of France, Christiane Taubira.
During the closing ceremony, the secretary for legal affairs of the OAS, Jean Michel Arrighi, said, "This is a process of legal development of judicial systems that has been growing in terms of the knowledge and cooperation between each and every one of the OAS member states, regardless of their size, ideology, or level of economic development."
"We the member states of the OAS, now together with observer states, and the General Secretariat, leave Quito with a renewed commitment, a political and technical commitment," said Arrighi, and added that now "a strengthened financial commitment is needed, without which none of this will be sustainable in the medium and long term."
For her part, Pesántez Benitez said the meeting "has been invaluable, and has opened doors to new actions that will be taken by each of our institutions, especially in each of our countries -- to strengthen them open not only in bilateral meetings, but also in those actions that unite us within the OAS."
"From Ecuador we are confident that we will continue this cooperation, continue to work on access to justice, we have new challenges ahead on which we must keep working," said the minister, who also conveyed "a very special greeting from the president, Rafael Correa."
Regarding the administration of justice in the Americas, REMJA IX reaffirmed the importance of the right to access to justice from the perspective of effective enforcement of the rights conferred on individuals. In this regard, it recommended the continued encouragement of cooperation – in the scope of the REMJA -- between the authorities responsible for leading the definition of public policies on access to justice and to promoting their implementation in judicial and extrajudicial spheres.
The meeting also resolved to continue the progress related to cooperation in access to justice in the institutions of the Inter-American System and other organizations and processes of international cooperation, including civil society, academia and professional associations that have addressed the issue.
REMJA expressed its support and encouragement for the work that the Justice Studies Center of the Americas (CEJA) -- an institution created twelve years ago in the sphere of REMJA -- has done to increase access to justice in the region, aware of the need to address reforms in civil issues, incorporating into its drive standards similar to those used in penal reforms, such as oral and public hearings; as well as strategies related to the creation of systems of mediation, the establishment of houses of justice and the creation of magistrates courts.
Furthermore, REMJA expressed support for the OAS to continue developing the judicial facilitators program to establish national services of judicial facilitators and for the information of justice operators.
In relation to international legal cooperation in the Americas, REMJA reaffirmed that it is essential for the development of justice systems and the consolidation of the rule of law in the region.
In order to further strengthen international legal cooperation in the Americas, REMJA recommended that OAS member states that have not yet done so to consider signing and ratifying or acceding to, as soon as possible: the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and its Optional Protocol, the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad, the Inter-American Convention on Execution of Preventive Measures, and the Inter-American Convention on Proof and Information on Foreign Law and its Additional Protocol.
The REMJA process, which started in Buenos Aires in 1997, is the political and technical forum of greatest importance at the hemispheric level on issues related to strengthening access to justice and international legal cooperation in areas related to mutual assistance on criminal matters, extradition, penitentiary and prison policies, cyber crime and forensic science, among others.
The main objective of REMJA is to consolidate the rule of law in the region by strengthening the mechanisms for access to justice and international legal cooperation through the exchange of information and experiences, coordination of public policies and the creation of institutions and effective processes of cooperation.