Strengthening Criminal Investigations and Evidence Sharing in Central America (2017-2021)
The ‘Northern Triangle’ countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have the 1st, 2nd and 5th highest homicide rates in the world. The countries suffer from extremely high levels of corruption, organized crime, violence, abuse and drug trafficking. The US state department reports that 90% of all illegal drugs in North America pass through Central America. The justice system moved from inquisitorial to adversarial in the 1990s but Criminal Justice systems in the region remain dysfunctional, under-resourced and lack cooperation.
The current project focuses on forming partnerships across the region, promoting the sharing of evidence between countries (eg ballistics and fingerprint information), carrying out regional training and seminars, increasing access to anti-crime equipment and building on the work of JES previous work in the region.
JES has carried out numerous projects in Guatemala, working in a local and a national context before expanding to Honduras and El Salvador. (See Previous Projects, below).
Our current three year Strengthening Criminal Investigations and Evidence Sharing in Central America project is funded by ACCBP (Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program of Global Affairs Canada) and started in October 2017.
The immediate outcomes of the project include Increased knowledge of police, prosecutors, analysts, justices of the peace in the following areas: Crime Scene Processing, Major Case Management, Oral Trial Procedures, Special Methods of Investigation (forensic video analysis, forensic IT and criminal intelligence analysis) as well as increased sharing of fingerprints and ballistic evidence across the Central American region and increased access to anti-crime equipment
Following previous JES programmes, criminal intelligence units are starting to deliver excellent results but still need coaching to develop strategic plans. The programme will also address concerns over problems with data management and access as well as roles and responsibilities for staff.
In The News
Down to the Wire: JES’ Contribution to the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office
Since April 2015, Guatemala has been shaken by a series of corruption cases involving the President, Vice President, the Minister of Interior, the tax authorities and others. Over 40 people are imprisoned facing criminal charges.
The solid investigative work behind these cases is the result of years of capacity built in the Attorney General's Office to collect forensic, scientific evidence with criminal analysis and wiretap. The AG said "we couldn't have done this without the assistance of Justice Education Society (JES)".
Our work since 1999 in coordination with the Guatemalan justice institutions, along with the courage and decision of the AG and the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) made possible these encouraging results. This case has been widely covered by international media and you can read more about it here.
JES 2013-14 Annual Report
ES donates videoconferencing equipment to Guatemalan institutions serving female victims
On August 18, JES donated new videoconferencing equipment for the Criminal Trial Court for Offences against Women, Sexual Offences, and Human Trafficking in the northern Department of Petén, Guatemala. Similar equipment is destined for Guatemala City and the Department of Sololá.
We have been supporting the Guatemalan judiciary since 2010 by building the capacity of the judges in oral trial skills. This donation takes our support one step further as the video equipment will soon be used by witnesses, victims and experts who cannot appear in court in person. We expect that the equipment will make the court more efficient, save the public time and result in better access to justice for the women and people of Guatemala. Funding is provided by the Government of Canada.
JES renews agreement with Guatemalan Public Ministry
JES renewed a cooperation agreement with the Public Ministry (PM) of Guatemala to continue training the Crime Investigation and Special Methods Units, and providing intelligence equipment, like for wiretapping and forensic video. The goal of this support is to assist and improve the investigative and surveillance work in tackling crimes against life.
The newly appointed Attorney General Thelma Aldana said that this international support in wiretapping for instance has allowed the special units to catch gangs of kidnappers, extortionists, and contract killers, and saved the lives of more than 1,200 victims since 2010. These investigation methods and technology have been applied in high-profile cases like the murder of nine members of the National Civil Police in Quetzaltenango and the eleven people killed in San Jose Nacahuil last year.
Funding is provided by the Government of Canada.
Minute 5:30 of http://guatevision.com/?p=73#sthash.rkDn8mUA.eJbiMzYu.dpbs
Past Projects in the Northern Triangle
The Society Has over a more than 15 year period developed a range of training resources that are designed to help countries in the northern triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) of Central America to build better criminal justice systems. All of these countries began the process of change from an inquisItorial justice system to an "open trials adversarial" system beginning in the late 1990s, after many years of internal or regional conflict. The Society conducted an initial diagnostic in Guatemala in 1999 and decided to organize a training seminar for prosecutors on oral trial techniques. This was a new skill area for prosecutors in Guatemala. In 2000 the Society shifted focused after realizing that the priority first step for building the new criminal justice system was the proper identification, collection and management of evidence. Almost no physical evidence was collected and witnesses were afraid to testify in a country was gang violence was increasing exponentially and organized crime was very powerful. JES started this process by training police and prosecutors together on the collection of physical evidence.
The basic course of training trained almost 5000 police in prosecutors in 22 training sessions over 2 years. This was a first for the concept of joint training and crucial to be building of confidence between the two institutions. The success of this approach led to a new project that focused on more advanced trained. JES trained 12 Guatemalan trainers in Canada for 5 weeks and developed a 4 week training program for police and prosecutors in Guatemala. This second project was very successful and by 2007 Guatemala had 500 specialized crime scene technicians and an equal number of trained prosecutors on physical evidence collection. JES also trained over 30 judges on how to evaluate physical evidence.
The success of this approach led to request by Attorney Generals of El Salvador and Honduras to expand this training to their respective countries. First project support from the government of Canada allowed this to happen during the years 2009-2013. At this time the Society developed a second component of training - Major Case management and Investigation. This training focused on training prosecutors and police in techniques of major case management, investigation techniques and investigative interviewing techniques. This training was extended to all three countries during this project.
A third component developed during the 2009-2013 project was oral trial techniques. This training took over where JES started 10 years before and focused on training prosecutors and judges on the effective presentation of physical evidence and how that evidence should be evaluated. Training included the development of effective accusations, opening statements, closing statements, direct and cross examination, objections, circumstantial evidence and working with specific types of physical evidence (ballistics, fingerprint, DNA, etc.). In Guatemala this training was later modified for use with the training of Justices of the Peace so that the oral trials process could be extended into remote and rural communities (many indigenous).
During the 2009-2013 period the Society secured additional Canadian government funding, the the Anti-Crime Capacity Building program, to begin training Guatemalan forensic experts and others, and later their counterparts in El Salvador and Honduras on a range of specific liked evidence collection and analysis techniques. To date, any varying by country, this has included ballistical evidence collection and sharing , fingerprints evidence collection and sharing, wiretap evidence collection and presentation, forensic video evidence collection and presentation, criminal intelligence analysis - tactical and strategic analysis and development of units, specialized investigation techniques, amongst others.
In Guatemala the Society is credited with being a major contributors to the increase in successful homicide case convictions - from 5% to 28% and in the sharing of over 1500 lines through wiretap related interventions.
The Society, with Canadian government funding, during 2011-2013 also developed a new model for criminal case investigations in the second largest city in Guatemala - Quezaltenango. This model has involved the training over over 90 new investigators and the creation of a new operations centre, complete with appropriate support technology.
A small and unique project that connected Canadian aboriginal and Mayan communities to examine the sharing of traditional approach to justice and restorative justice models was developed and implemented during the 2008-2010 period. The project allowed leaders in both indigenous communities to visit each other and discuss approaches to justice making and models of justice making that each were pursuing.