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Perspectives of change after a visit to the Judicial Branch in Neuquen

Panama, 22 November 2019. Eight officials of the Judicial Branch of Panama made a study visit to the Judicial Branch of the Province of Neuquen, in Argentina, accompanied by the Project to Consolidate the Criminal Procedure Reform in Panama of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Central America and the Caribbean (UNODC ROPAN).


"The exchange of experiences with judges, prosecutors and other system operators; the opportunity to attend hearings, learn about the procedure before juries and visit the different facilities that make up the Judiciary City of Criminal Jurisdiction in Neuquen has been enriching," says Librada Aguilar, trial judge of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama in the district of San Miguelito.

This experience "broadens our view on the importance of monitoring the implementation process, detecting those situations that prevent its normal functioning and adopting institutional policies, as well as good practices that allow us to improve the service we provide."


For Rosa Molinar, Director of the Colon Judicial Office, these visits offer the opportunity to broaden knowledge and compare the functioning of the Accusatory Penal System in countries that have been successful in its implementation, and to make the pertinent adjustments, as long as the legislature allows us to do so.

"It is important to receive information from the people who are implementing the system on a daily basis, they are the ones who have direct and constant contact with the users and with the Judicial Branch, and they are able to identify successes and errors, as well as possible improvements," says Myrna Córdoba, judge of the Oral Trial Chamber of the Judicial Branch in the Second Circuit of the First Judicial District of Panama in San Miguelito.

In five days of work, officials exchanged "valuable and useful information within all stages of the accusatory criminal process," says Córdoba.

This visit allowed them to "identify the successes that we as a country have had, as well as to warn in what we are mistaking the path and that in some way may be influencing the overall success of the system," according to Vielka Mojica Calderon, judge of Oral Trial in the Third Judicial Circuit of the First Judicial District of Panama.

Going to Neuquen highlighted "the need in Panama to keep open the door to the search for consensus on many issues that, today, are appreciated from different perspectives, such as timely intervention for the resolution of the conflict, control of binding elements in the formulation of charges, the role of the judge in the hearing of evidence, among others," says Ilse Chu de Moreno, judge of Guarantees in the Colon Judicial Circuit.

Changes in the processes

After knowing the procedures in the Judicial Branch of the Argentine province, Judge Librada Aguilar considers that she can adopt measures that will benefit the Panamanian administration of justice, such as

"to have greater control of hearings, effective purging of evidence, to seek the use of alternative methods of conflict resolution to avoid the judicialization of all cases, the main cause of congestion in the scheduling of hearings and on the use of human resources".

"Maintaining a high level of coordination and mutual support with those involved in the cases (prosecutors, defenders, judicial office) for greater harmony among all" is one of the actions that Rosa Molinar, Director of the Colón Judicial Office, will take upon her return from Neuquen.

Upon her return, the Oral Trial Judge of the Second Circuit of the First Judicial District of Panama in San Miguelito, Myrna Córdoba, will apply the "instructions and adequacy of the questionnaire to the Jury Court".

She highlights the need for a "change of perspective of the judge of guarantees, of the meaning of this hearing, that is to say, a real and necessary filtration of the wealth of evidences that will be practiced, with which we would advance to have quality judgments".

He also mentions that "some adaptation of the criminal legislation is required, in order to empower that judge and that to some extent he can make certain decisions that are allowed to fellow judges from Neuquen, e.g., dismissals".

"The new prosecution system was brought to our country to provide solutions to the injustices and delays, among other setbacks represented by the inquisitive model, so we must be jealous of what we currently have, in order to avoid collapse" - says Judge Vielka Mojica - "budgetary investments in infrastructure and professional training are very valuable," she concluded.