REFCO Strategic Plan of Action for 2012
The pursuit of organized crime in Central America and the Dominican Republic is one of the priorities of Public Prosecutor's Offices, and has been the subject of various statements by prosecutors and Attorneys General, the most recent of which was made at the meeting of the Central Council of Public Prosecutors held in October 2011 in Managua.
At that meeting, the Central American Council of Public Prosecutors identified the Network as a key instrument used by the Council to implement any regional initiative which falls within the framework of its Plan of Action and aims at combating organized crime in all its manifestations (drug trafficking, laundering asset or extortion).
In this context, on 1 and 2 February 2012 in Panama, a workshop was held with three objectives:
- The Central American Council of Public Prosecutors sought to prioritize those actions that prosecutors and Attorneys General identified in the last meeting held from 12-13 October 2011 in Managua.
- The Network sought to implement the conclusions of the meeting in Managua, where prosecutors from Central America and the Dominican Republic made proposals to strengthen contacts between Public Prosecutor's Offices and improve the investigation and prosecution of transnational organized crime.
- The Public Prosecutor's Offices on Organized Crime and Narcotics, by way of points of contact, facilitated the sharing of information on needs and interests so that the Network could provide adequate responses and collaborate on a national level in order to strengthening their structures and capabilities.
In the two days of work, REFCO's Strategic Plan for 2012 was discussed and approved with the following initiatives:
- Sustainability of the activities in 2011- virtual workshops and Network newsletters: These activities contribute to the increased specialization of prosecutors and, given the focus on regional activities, allow regular contact amongst regional counterparts so as to build trust and better knowledge of their legal frameworks. The attendees were in favor of the continuity of both the bimonthly newsletter as well as virtual workshops as training tools that allow the participation of all prosecutors of the Network.
Regional Uniformed Training Programme on Organized Crime: led by the Prosecutors' School in El Salvador and coordinated with the respective units on organized crime and/or drug trafficking and the national training schools. The Prosecutors' School of El Salvador issued a proposed regional training in the area of organized crime, with the participation of all training schools, under the coordination of the Network. The regional training proposal, which was supported by all attendees, translates as follows:
- Identification of areas of theoretical and practical training for regional virtual workshops: research and analysis, cybercrime and oral litigation techniques in organized crime cases. Within 15 days each of the points of contact was invited to submit proposals for these workshops in the interests of each Public Prosecutor's Office.
- The workshops will be held in each of the member countries of the Network that proposes organization, under the joint coordination of the Prosecutors' School in El Salvador and REFCO.
- Promote the participation of prosecutors of each of the member countries of the Network in these workshops, promoting the use of videoconferencing.
- The first workshop, which focused on extortion, was held from March 5-9 in El Salvador and attended by two prosecutors from each Public Prosecutor's Office in the Network.
Regional Documentation Center for Prosecution of Organized Crime and Narcotics Trafficking to collect the most relevant statements on organized crime, so as to make the information available to the Network's prosecutors.
- Contact points forward nationally significant resolutions to the Secretary of the Network. The selection criteria is then left to the contact points.
- The REFCO Secretariat shall prepare the documentation center, the resolutions ordering dates, topics and countries, maintaining a standard of confidentiality concerning the identities of the subjects judged.
- The Documentation Centre will be available to REFCO prosecutors through its website, subject to certain resolutions publicized through the newsletter of the Network.
Operational support to the Prosecutor's Office on Organized Crime and Narcotics in multilateral research coordination: coordination meetings. REFCO, through its Secretary, will promote these meetings with the participation of prosecutors (accompanied where appropriate by the researchers) responsible for the investigations carried out in each of the countries. In this way, REFCO takes a step forward toward support each Prosecutor's Office operationally.
- When prosecutors of organized crime and / or narco-trafficking detect that an investigation may involve other countries (bilateral or more), they can communicate through the respective contact point to the REFCO Secretary.
- The REFCO Secretary will promote the joint meeting and attendance of prosecutors responsible for the investigation, in order to:
- Share information on research and
- Design a common research strategy
- It will track these meetings, either in person or virtually.
One-Week internships on organized crime for Prosecutors of the Network in the Organized Crime Public Prosecutor's Offices of other members and in the Court of Human Rights, so as to share experiences, encourage direct contact with colleagues from other prosecutors in the region, and increase knowledge of other systems.
This proposal follows the following work-plan:
• Identification of prosecutors interested in participating in the programme, both for sending and hosting prosecutors and for the design of the internship programme (in what it should consist, its duration, evaluation).
• Appointment of a mentor for each intern.
• Preparation of a weekly, practice-oriented programme which allows the "intern" to learn the structure and operation of the Office and other institutions involved in the prosecution of organized crime. This program will be jointly designed by REFCO and the respective prosecutors.
• Evaluation of the internship through the respective reports of the "intern" and the mentor.
Internships will be coordinated by the Network to address the necessary infrastructure (accommodation and travel) that allow for the effective implementation of this activity. Similarly, the Office of the Secretary will initiate contacts with the American Court of Human Rights to study the feasibility of internships to determine if they would be of interest to members of REFCO.
The information on the internship programme will be available on the REFCO website. The internships will begin in September 2012.
Development of a website that hosts information available to prosecutors and which publicizes the activities of the Network, the national activities of each of the member Prosecutor's Offices and their respective training schools
This website is the ideal tool to articulate and channel:
• Identification of contacts in the Network
• Regional Documentation Centre of sentences
• Training Initiatives / virtual workshops.
• Review / analysis or studies on specific issues relating to organized crime or regional phenomena of interest e.g. maras or comparative analysis of organized crime legislation in member countries of the Network.
• Dissemination of national efforts to strengthen Prosecutor's Offices.
• REFCO Bulletins
In view of the sensitivity / confidentiality of certain information, the page will have security which limits access to the points of contact for the Network, and only some access will be granted to the general public.
The web page maintenance will be performed by the Office of the Secretary of the Network, and the information provided will be so done in collaboration with the points of contact of each Prosecutor's Office and the respective National Schools.
Agreement for exchange of information and experiences to combat transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and related crimes among government ministries
This proposed agreement, submitted at the request of the Attorney General of Costa Rica, was assumed by the Central Council of Public Prosecutors who encouraged Organized Crime Chief Prosecutors to review the text and make it effective.
The workshop presented and discussed the proposals made by the Prosecution of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The resulting proposal articulates the agreements on information exchange and joint research in the prosecution of organized crime and related offenses under the following notes:
• In response to the need to establish mechanisms that facilitate the secure exchange of information and investigation of organized crime, in accordance with the provisions of art.9.1.a) and c) of the Vienna Convention and Article 19 of the Palermo Convention.
• The aim of the agreement is to allow the exchange of information securely, effectively and permanently and to promote joint research.
• The contact points of REFCO in liaison for the purposes of this agreement.
• The joint investigation teams promote research requiring coordinated action in one or more countries, with a specific purpose and a limited period.
Interest in working more closely on the actions that can develop joint investigation teams was shown.
Creation of working groups to address specific issues of the Prosecutor's Offices such as the treatment of criminal intelligence, the phenomenon of gangs or human trafficking. These task forces can operate with physical meetings or through a virtual contact to ensure coordination
The work of these groups can guide decision-making in the Council and REFCO in identifying regional strategies that enable more effective investigation and prosecution of certain phenomena associated with organized crime.
This proposal is currently on hold so as to identify areas of interest to channel the collaboration, such as joint investigation teams or structures of the Prosecution of Organized Crime.
Material support to Prosecution of Organized Crime in Central America and the Dominican Republic: videoconferencing equipment.
The development of virtual workshops has proven to be an activity that illustrates regional cooperation, the exchange of experiences and strengthen the contact and specialization of prosecutors. More than 200 prosecutors and police participated in three workshops last year.
The sustainability and success of this initiative requires that prosecutors have the equipment necessary to implement these workshops. At the same time, the team promotes international cooperation and can even be used internally / national.
It was agreed to explore the possibilities of acquiring this equipment through a rough budget and eventual funding.
Consolidation of the Network through its members and future participants.
• It stresses the need for more contact points in each of the Prosecution of organized crime and drug trafficking, to ensure regular communication with the Secretariat of the Network and the other, the extent of activities (such as bulletin Network) among the members of their respective fiscal unidad.Se Attorney invites each to appoint two contact points and encourages contact points to maintain regular communication with the Secretariat to facilitate the implementation of the above activities and for support Network in any other are of interest to the respective Office.
• Finally, to the extent that there is already a Memorandum of Understanding between UNODC and Eurojust, will explore future cooperation between EU tax, Central America and the Dominican Republic to tackle organized crime phenomena that demand a global response.