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Study visit to Santiago de Chile

Panama, 12 August 2019. 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 in Panama (UNODC-ROPAN), eight collaborators of the Judicial Branch of Panama travelled to Santiago de Chile to conduct a study visit in order to learn about the functioning of the Accusatory Criminal System and to promote the exchange of experiences between administrative personnel and Chilean judges.

The group met with Juan Enrique Vargas, director of the Judicial Academy of Chile, who shared experiences on training for judges and officials in the implementation process.

They also visited the Judicial Branch of Chile to meet with Jorge Sáez, Secretary of the Supreme Court of Justice, who was also a judge of guarantees for a period of 14 years.

Sáez referred to the structure, powers and attributions of the guarantee courts and the oral trial courts in accordance with the regulatory framework that governs them.

They exchanged experiences with collaborators from the Chilean judiciary of the Corporación Administrativa del Poder Judicial (CAPJ).

The parties discussed budget management for the implementation of the criminal procedure reform, as well as experiences on the digitalization of the system and the interconnection they have with public institutions, and how this helps to shorten processing times and make the system more efficient.

They also had the opportunity to visit the Judicial Office and Guarantee Courts of Santiago de Chile.

They spoke with the director of the office, who emphasized the responsibility that administrators have in the operation of the system and the importance of providing space for judges to carry out their work. He explained topics such as scheduling of hearings, service efficiency, forecasts for possible absences of judges, work flows, measurement of efficiency, etc.

Then, the judge of guarantees Francisca Zapata, held a conversation with the judges about the control of guarantees and the work of the judges.

The delegation also attended three compliance hearings and toured the southern country's courts.

During the study tour, the Panamanian delegation went to the northern central prosecutor's office in Santiago, Chile, where they were attended by the Attorney General and his team, who shared experiences related to the implementation of the procedural reform. They learned that Chile does not have an office for the protection of victims of crime.

They were in the Public Defender's Office, where they were attended by its general director, who emphasized that the organizational processes in the Public Defender's Office, as well as the courts, are carried out by professionals with the profile of industrial engineers.

The director general explained about procedural sponsorship, which includes all accused, without distinction of social class, but when the person has economic resources must pay the representation and this charge enters the national treasury.

The participants of this study tour were Evangelina Araúz, (director of OISPA); Irene Pinilla, director of the second Judicial Office of Plaza Ágora; Yorleni Rodríguez and Eric Belgrave (judges of Guarantees of West Panama and Colon respectively); Luis Bethancourt, María Lourdes Ortíz and Yemahara Pedroza (oral trial judges of West Panama, Panama and San Miguelito respectively). They were accompanied by a UNODC delegation composed of Flor Pinzón (project coordinator), Barzy Hernández (assistant) and Osmar Batista (architect).