Meetings of Ministers of Justice or other Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA)
The Meetings of Ministers of Justice or other Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas (Spanish acronym REMJA), was conceived during the 27th Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Lima, Peru (1997). The REMJA is attended by the Ministers of Justice, other Ministers, or Attorneys General, with responsibilities in the area of public policy regarding justice matters, as well as international legal cooperation, particularly with regard to criminal matters, from the 34 OAS Member States. The REMJA is supported by the OAS Department of Legal Cooperation of the Secretariat for Legal Affairs.
Since its creation, the REMJA has consolidated itself as the premiere hemispheric political and technical forum on matters related to the strengthening of and access to justice, information and experience sharing, public policy coordination, regional cooperation, and consolidation of the rule of law in the Americas. Every REMJA issues a final document of recommendations and conclusions that highlight particular issues for legal cooperation.
The REMJA is structured around a high-level dialogue at the Ministerial level, which allows for direct and horizontal cooperation between OAS member States. While REMJA meetings are biannual, the REMJA process is a continuous one, involving a series of activities that take place between meetings. These activities include, among others, meetings of working groups created by the REMJA to deal with specific topics or areas, the execution of various initiatives and training activities, and continued consolidation of internet portals for the dissemination of information to experts and to the public at large.
Some of the concrete results and activities that have taken place within the framework of the REMJA process include:
- The Creation of the Justice Studies Center of the Americas (JSCA): based in Santiago, Chile, pursuant to an initiative of the United States, with the stated objectives to facilitate (1): the training of justice sector personnel; (2) the exchange of information and other forms of technical cooperation; and (3) support for the reform and modernization of justice systems in the region. The REMJA also maintains close relationship with the JSCA.
- Access to Justice Process: This has been an ongoing process carried out within the framework of the REMJA. The most recent REMJA reaffirmed the importance of access to justice, including ensuring that all citizens have access not only to the justice system, but also to alternative mechanisms for conflict resolution, such as mediation, conciliation, and arbitration. Similarly, it agreed to trigger a process that takes developments in the hemisphere in this area into account, and which will conclude with recommendations on specific measures to strengthen hemispheric cooperation, improve the quality of public policies on access to justice, and facilitate the exchange of information and practical experiences in this field.
- Legal Cooperation on Cyber-crime: The REMJA created a Working Group on Cyber-Crime in 1999, to serve as a hemispheric forum to strengthen national legal frameworks for combating cyber-crime; strengthen international cooperation in the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of these offenses; and facilitate the exchange of information and experiences in this area. This Group has a long-standing cyber-crime training program sponsored and led by the United States, through its Department of Justice, and which has provided relevant training to hundreds of investigators and prosecutors throughout the Americas through more than 20 regional training workshops. The next phase of the training program contemplates the provision of training to judges. In addition, pursuant to recommendations from this Group, the Technical Secretariat maintains an Inter-American Cooperation Portal on Cyber-Crime, available at: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/cyber.htm
- Cooperation in Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and Extradition: The REMJA has sought to strengthen international cooperation in this area through various means, including, among others:
- The creation of the Working Group on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and Extradition, which has promoted the adoption of measures to ensure that legal cooperation in criminal matters is prompt, effective and efficient, including (i) Best Practices Guide on Collection of Statements, Documents and Physical Evidence; (ii) Best Practices Guide on the Investigation, Freezing, Seizure and Confiscation of Assets; (iii) Model Law on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters; and (iv) the ongoing preparation of a new Protocol to the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.
- The creation of a Hemispheric Exchange Network for Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and Extradition, available at: http://www.oas.org/juridico/MLA/en/index.html, which serves to improve the exchange of information between OAS member States. The network has a secure electronic communication system with a secure videoconferencing component, allowing for the real-time exchange of information between central authorities with responsibilities in this area. The communication system has been used to facilitate and expedite the processing of criminal cases.
Other Working Groups created by the REMJA include the Working Group on Penitentiary and Prison Policies of the Americas; and the Working Group on Forensic Sciences. The United States participates in all of the REMJA working and technical groups.
The United States hosted REMJA VII on April 28-30, 2008 in Washington D.C. The most recent REMJA was held in Quito, Ecuador on November 28-29, 2012, while REMJA X will be held in 2014.