Foreign Experts Workshop to National Expert Group on the Collection and Evaluation of Evidence
Article from: UNODC
The "Foreign Experts Consultation Meeting on the Collection and Evaluation of Evidence Law" was held on November 12 and November 13, 2013 at Don Chan Palace in Vientiane, Lao PDR. More than 35 participants from the Office of Supreme People's Prosecutor (OSPP), the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Security, the Customs Department, the Forest Inspection Department, the National University and the Lao Bar Association attended the two-day workshop.
In recent years, the Government of Lao PDR has increased its efforts to promote the rule of law and strengthen its law enforcement capabilities. A centerpiece of these efforts was the enactment by the Lao National Assembly of the amended Law on Criminal Procedure on July 10, 2012 (effective November 2012). The new Criminal Procedure Law made several key amendments making the law more effective in countering crime and bringing Lao PDR laws closer to international standards of criminal procedure law. One area of the criminal procedure law that was largely amended was the provisions related to evidence. The amended law expanded on the types of evidence and its use in proceedings.
In order to increase the level of expertise of Lao legal professionals and further promote the use of evidence in criminal procedures, UNODC, together with the Office of Supreme People's Prosecutor (OSPP) has created a group of National Experts which will research and create a manual on evidence law. The group includes a wide range of participants, including members of OSPP, the People's Supreme Court, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, Lao National University and the Lao Bar Association. The group will meet regularly for a period of 4 months to study evidence law under the amended criminal procedure law. Based on the aforementioned research results, the group will develop a Prosecutor's Manual on Evidence Law.
During the two-day workshop, foreign experts from the United States, Japan and Vietnam presented issues related to Evidence Law in their respective countries. The workshop started with opening remarks by the co-chairs of the meeting, Mr. Langsy Sibounheuang, Deputy Prosecutor General, Office of the Supreme People's Prosecutor, Lao PDR, Mr. Lacy A. Wright, Jr., Director of the INL Section at the U.S. Embassy Vientiane and Mr. Fumio Ito, Officer-in-Charge of the UNODC Country Office Lao PDR. In their opening remarks, each of the co-chairs expressed their thanks to the experts presenting at the workshop and emphasized the significance of the National Expert Group in promoting the use of evidence in criminal proceedings in Lao PDR.
The first day of the workshop consisted of two presentations by Mr. Colin Garrett, a former US Federal Public Defender currently working as the Justice Programs Coordinator in the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of State in Bangkok, Thailand. In his first presentation on "Evidence in the United States" Mr. Garrett provided an overview of the U.S. criminal justice system, including the use of illegally obtained evidence, goals and theories of Evidence Law, relevance of evidence, probative value and policy exclusions. In the afternoon, Mr. Garrett presented on "Increasing Available Evidence" where he introduced several concepts used to enhance the collection of evidence in the US including plea bargaining, sentencing and depositions (civil cases) and in the presentation of evidence such as witness protection programs, sentencing incentives, witness subpoenas, victim rights and remote testimony. The sessions provided an opportunity for participants to learn about methods of collecting and using evidence which differed from Lao practices.
The second day of the workshop featured Japanese experts, a Vietnamese expert, a Q&A session, case studies and closing remarks. Japanese prosecutors from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Lao office who not only have the legal expertise but are familiar with Lao laws gave two presentations. The first presentation was by JICA Expert, Mr. Hiroyuki Ito who presented on "Evidence rules in Japanese law compared to Lao law". He was followed by JICA Resident Expert, Mr. Kenichi Nakamura who presented on "Evidence Rule in Japanese Criminal Procedure Law". The last presentation in the morning was given by Mr. Vu Van Moc, Deputy Director, Procuracy Science Institute, Supreme People's Procuracy of Vietnam, who gave a presentation on "Issues of Evidence in Criminal Proceedings of Vietnam". Many of the issues highlighted by Mr. Vu were especially relevant to participants given the geographic and political proximity between Vietnam and Lao PDR.
In the afternoon of the second day, there was a Q&A session followed by case studies. Case studies were led by Mr. Garrett and they engaged participants by making them think through situations and apply the law; it also highlighted how a certain piece of evidence can be treated differently in countries. Finally, Mr. Langsy Sibounheuang and Mr. Fumio Ito provided closing remarks thanking the experts for their presentations and requesting participants to use some of the ideas and knowledge obtained in the workshops in drafting the manual on Evidence Law.
UNODC views the creation of a National Expert Group on Evidence Law as part of its continued commitment since 2006 to assist the Lao Government in undertaking legislative reforms in order to implement certain international conventions. This successful two-day workshop was possible through the cooperation and financial support of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Section of the United States Department of State, as well as the experts from JICA and the Supreme People's Procuracy of Vietnam.