In a conference room in Uganda six months ago, the EU team contemplated the next step to establish the Greater Horn of Africa Mutual Legal Assistance Network.
We decided upon an ambitious strategy to have an equivalent of the European Judicial Network – with a Fiches and Contact Points. To be proactive rather than reactive.
Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) relies upon practitioners communicating securely and knowing how to obtain evidence. The Contact Points would allow the region to work together, rather than in silos. The Country Fiches would summarize the law and procedure in each State for special investigation techniques, witness evidence, searches, joint investigation teams and more.
To achieve our plan the practitioners in-Country would draft the Fiches – so they had ownership. We wanted to do more than just producing a summary of the law that would gather dust. To test-drive their application we ran emergency MLA exercises. Prosecutors and investigative judges have an essential role in these situations, but without the experience or knowledge, they have no confidence to play their part.
Today, as we finish our last workshop in Somalia, six months on from that meeting in Uganda, the Network has national Contact Points, MLA Handbooks, and Country Fiches for six States: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda – all available on a secure online platform.
In addition, more than 50 practitioners in the region now have the skills and confidence to routinely make international enquiries.
We have been grateful for the endorsement of the Network by the Attorney General of Kenya, Deputy Attorneys General of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia and the DPP of Uganda.
Our plan faced language barriers and different legal systems – but the one thing in common was a commitment to deliver a MLA Network that enables the region to work collaboratively.
Thank you to all those who joined us to build the foundations of the Network – now we move to the next level of going operational!