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Panamanian Judicial Officials Make Study Visit to Neuquen

Panama, 18 November 2019. The Project to Consolidate Criminal Procedure Reform in Panama of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Central America and the Caribbean (UNODC ROPAN) in Panama accompanied the Judicial Branch delegation on a visit to the Judicial Branch of the Province of Neuquen.

This delegation was composed of Rosa Molinar, director of the Colon Judicial Office and judges Vielka Mojica, Ilse Chu, Manuel Quijada, Arlene Caballero, Librada Aguilar, Kathia Jimenez and Myrna Cordoba.  

On the first day of the meeting, German Busamia, President of the Superior Court of Justice, received the participants and spoke about the current judicial panorama in the province of Neuquen and the implementation process of the Criminal Procedure Reform, as well as the new challenges of the Accusatory Criminal System since its entry into force in 2014.

Alternative Methods

Subsequently, they visited the Ciudad Judicial where they were received by Jose Ignacio Gerez, Attorney General of the Province of Neuquen, who presented the new SPA paradigm based on the solution of the primary conflict as a guiding principle and emphasized the importance of the implementation of alternative methods of conflict resolution, leaving the trial as an extreme measure.

 "Of the 100% of cases received by the Public Prosecutor's Office, about 90% are resolved using alternative methods of conflict resolution," Gerez said.

Later, Maximiliano Breide, Chief Prosecutor of the Flagrante Prosecutor's Office and responsible for the Environmental Crimes Prosecutor's Office, presented one of the technological tools implemented for the reception of the first information collected by the police in flagrante delicto cases.

This application allows both the Public Ministry and the Public Defense to know in real time the apprehension of people caught in the execution of a criminal activity.


Doctors Ulf Christian Eiras Nordenstahl and Celia Basterrechea, director and deputy director of the Mediation and Conciliation Office of the Public Ministry of the Judiciary of Neuquén spoke about restorative criminal justice, conciliation and criminal mediation.

They explained that, in the Accusatory Criminal System, the first to consider the referral of cases to mediation is the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Argentine officials indicated that it is up to the judge to encourage the application of alternative solutions to conflict resolution, whenever the opportunity arises.

They stressed that the tendency should be to seek a solution to the primary conflict and to see the trial as an extreme measure.

Investigation process

Members of the Judicial Branch of Panama had the opportunity to attend an appeal hearing.

They then met with Judge Carina Álvarez and Prosecutor Pablo Vignalori in order to exchange experiences related to the application of precautionary measures and preventive detention during the investigation process.

Both professionals agreed that, exceptionally, the Public Prosecutor's Office, when charging a suspect, discusses the application of precautionary measures, unless there are real procedural risks that warrant the imposition of some measure restricting freedom.

Infrastructure tour

Rosa Molinar, director of the Colón Judicial Office, was assisted by the director of the Neuquen Judicial Office, with the purpose of showing her how the office works and exchanging information on the Panamanian system of organization and scheduling.

Meanwhile, the Infrastructure team of the Criminal Procedure Reform Consolidation Project in Panama, made up of architects Yahaira López and Osmar Batista, toured the facilities of the buildings that make up the Judicial City of Neuquén, accompanied by Jorge Diez (Deputy Director of Infrastructure), Architect Americo Alfredo Belza (Project Inspector), Engineer Patricio San Martín (Maintenance Coordinator) and Engineer Agustin Pisani, who during the construction of the building that houses the Judicial Office, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Public Defense, held the position of project manager on behalf of the construction company RIVA, S.A.

This visit was focused on sharing experiences related to the construction process of the work and the operation of the electromechanical systems of the Judicial City.

In addition, the UNODC Infrastructure team met with those responsible for this issue in the Judicial Branch of Neuquen, who introduced them to the working relationship schemes of the units that house the Public Prosecutor's Office building.

They took a tour of this building and observed the functioning of the vertical and horizontal circulation of the public and staff.

Jurors of Conscience

Fernando Zvilling, Judge of Impugnation, gave a detailed presentation on the development of the trials of popular juries or juries of conscience in the province of Neuquén.

Of particular importance was the process of selecting the jury of conscience, the instructions of the jury for deliberation and the questionnaire to be filled out by the jury to give its verdict.

Zvilling stressed that it is very important to have a uniform criterion on the general instructions that must be given to the jury of conscience before starting the trial.

He also indicated that the judge must be careful when drawing up the questionnaire to be answered by the jury for a guilty or not guilty plea, as it could lead to confusion.

The Hearings

The judges and the director of the Judicial Office of the Panamanian judiciary participated as observers of the pre-trial hearings. They then met with Gabriela Villalobos, Director of the Judicial Office, and Gastón Rosenfeld, head of the Institutional Quality Office of the Public Prosecutor's Office, who referred to the system of scheduling hearings and the need for good communication between judges and office director and office director and officials of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

The group met with prosecutor Agustin Garcia and assurances judge Leticia Lorenzo, who discussed the intermediate-stage or indictment hearing. Both agreed that this hearing is the most important act prior to the trial and the quality of the evidence that will be presented for debate depends on the work done by the judge of guarantees.

In this exchange of ideas, attendees had the opportunity to share experiences about types of trials.


The delegation of the Judicial Branch of Panama and UNODC participated as observers in a trial hearing presided over by Judge Mauricio Zabala, in the Courts of the Judicial Branch building in Neuquen.

Later, they were received by Mr. Sebastian Lafon, head of the Office of Communication and Image of the Public Prosecutor's Office of Neuquén, who led a conversation on institutional communication policies and tools to legitimize the management of judicial bodies. In this space, Mr. Lafon referred to the impact of communications on society's response to the Justice System.