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  • Panama

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Panama

Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice

Projects: 

Strengthening Anti-Crime Capacity in Panama (2015-2017)

Status: 
Current
Funders: 
Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program of Global Affairs Canada (ACCBP)

Panama benefits from a strong, growing economy promoted by its strategic location between the two American land masses. However this also means it attracts high levels of organized, transnational crime. There are thought to be at least 204 criminal gangs active in the country and an increasing involvement in the international drugs trade. 

Panama is one of the last Latin American countries to move from an inquisitorial to an adversarial justice system and has welcomed the expertise of JES to help tackle the huge challenges that this presents. 

Following the success of projects in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, in September 2015 JES expanded its work to Panama. While Panama benefits from a strong, growing economy promoted by its strategic location between the two American land masses, this same advantage attracts high levels of organized, transnational crime.

There are thought to be at least 204 criminal gangs active in the country and an increasing involvement in the international drugs trade. According to Insight Crime, while more than 200 people have been detained for gang activities this year, not one gang member has been convicted or sentenced by the Panamanian justice system since 2013.

Panama is one of the last Latin American countries to move from an inquisitorial to an adversarial justice system and has so far implemented the change in 3 out of 4 judicial districts. Responsibility now lies in the hands of newly adapting prosecutors (rather than judges) to gather and preserve evidence, run complex investigations and carry out successful prosecutions to tackle transnational organized crime.

JES found there was an excellent foundation in Panama on which to incorporate a successful approach to combatting transnational organized crime. However, the greater challenge of bringing complex investigations into criminal associations to trial had yet to be tackled.

Justice Education Society’s work in Panama will use Canadian experts to carry out training of police, prosecutors, the national forensic laboratory and judges over two years in the following three areas: Evidence collection and preservation, Case management and investigation,Trial preparation and prosecution.

Canadian experts will train trainers throughout Bocas del Toro and Chiriquí, will provide coaching for senior managers and will leave training materials that are adapted to the Panamanian context.

By the end of the project in August 2017, JES will have developed a successful pilot program with a holistic approach to organized crime. This program will be ready for replication in the first judicial district (provinces of Panamá and Darién) at the time of transition to adversarial system; a crucial step towards combatting criminal activity in the capital city and the area bordering Colombia.