I have spent the last week in Uganda, working with twenty experts from the Greater Horn of Africa, to develop their international judicial cooperation skills.
As well as preparing a roadmap for the future of the Greater Horn of Africa International Judicial Cooperation Network – the informal networking was very active!
It was heartening to see friendships made and WhatsApp groups started over the course of five days. One delegate told me she didn’t know before the workshop the prosecutor in another State responsible for an extradition request she drafted, and now they have agreed to keep in touch as friends, as well as to advance the matter. This demonstrates the power of informal networking to progress formal matters. Practitioners getting to know another, is the start of any progressive network, and can only encourage an email to be sent or a phone call to be made, to expedite extradition and mutual legal assistance in the region.
One of the main reasons I enjoy this project is working with frontline practitioners. Supporting those who prosecute, in often challenging circumstances, and to assist their design of the tools they want, is a cornerstone of the project.
Our strategy to enhance knowledge of MLA and extradition is very simple – the practitioners draft their own tools. For example, writing their national law and procedure in a Fiches – or summary. This can then be used by prosecutors in another State to know if, for example, special investigation techniques (SIT) can be legally applied for. If they are available, the Fiches outlines what information should be included in a MLA Request for an SIT in another State.
Appointing single points of contact, so there is a cadre of those with knowledge of international judicial cooperation is also an essential component of the Network.
Where there are existing networks – the project has not sought to duplicate – but use the same single point of contact. Although, often these SPOCs can be the busiest – so where possible – alternative SPOCs have been nominated too.
It has been so rewarding to see the project develop over the last 18 months and the tools progress to ensure local ownership.
In Uganda, the participants reported to me how they had used the MLA Fiches and the model MLA Requests to draft their own formal requests. In time, I hope we can report how these requests have secured essential evidence for a prosecution.
To demonstrate the application of the tools developed, it was so inspiring to see this week – representatives from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti – all taking part in a regional exercise over three days.
Time will tell if this capacity building model has provided the necessary foundation to support the region operationally. Indeed, now is the tipping point to develop the next stage of this EU funded project. With trust and enthusiasm achieved the momentum has shifted. Meaning, it is important to change gear and develop effective and sustainable training platforms and channels of communication.
Of course, nothing is truly original in design in international work as we use our experiences to try and help others meet their challenges. As a trainer or advisor you always want the judges, prosecutors and police officers you have worked with to leave with a smile and think – “yeap I think I know a little bit more about MLA and extradition – so will give it a go!”
I hope we have all achieved this in the past week!
Another important element of the project is the political level – so it was good to hear a Deputy Attorney General at the workshop confirm they will advise their Government to ratify the IGAD Conventions for MLA and extradition. When a third State ratifies, the Conventions will come into force – to date only Ethiopia and Djibouti have ratified. Although long awaited, to openly advocate for the ratification of these regional conventions must be a positive.
Good luck to all in the region – stay safe and see you next year