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Northern Triangle

Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice


Strengthening Criminal Investigations and Evidence Sharing in Central America (2017-2021)

Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program of Global Affairs Canada (ACCBP)

The ‘Northern Triangle’ countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have the 1st, 2nd and 5th highest homicide rates in the world. Femicide - the targeted killing of a woman, particularly by a man, due to her gender - plagues much of Latin America. Femicide in Northern Triangle countries particularly stands out for its severity, currently the fifth highest in the world for rates of femicide. 

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 lacking in cooperation between countries. 

The current project focuses on forming partnerships across the region, promoting evidence sharing between countries (anti-corruption and criminal analysis), carrying out regional training and seminars, increasing access to anti-crime equipment and building on JES's 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, which started in October 2017, is funded by the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program of Global Affairs Canada (ACCBP).

The immediate outcomes of the project include increased knowledge on the part of police, prosecutors, analysts, and justices of the peace in the following areas: Criminal Intelligence Analysis; Major Case Management; Oral Trial Procedures; and Special Methods of Investigation (forensic video analysis and forensic investigative techniques); as well as increased fingerprints and ballistic evidence sharing 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

JES 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.


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Past Projects in the Northern Triangle

  • • Strengthening Anti-Crime Capacity in the Northern Triangle (2014-2015)  
  • • Guaranteeing Human Rights by Building Effective Justice Systems Program in Central America and Africa (2009-2013) 
  • • Special Methods Investigation Methods Program for Central America (2009-2013) 
  • • Building an Effective Model for Criminal Investigation in Guatemala (2011-2013) 
  • • Aboriginal and Mayan Traditional Justice Knowledge Exchange Project (2008-2010)
  • • Crime Scene Investigation Techniques (2002-2008) 
  • • Oral Trials Training (2000-2001)  


JES has over 20 years of experience in developing 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. After many years of internal or regional conflict, 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. JES conducted an initial diagnostic in Guatemala in 1999 and decided to organize a training seminar for prosecutors on oral trial techniques - a new skill area for prosecutors in Guatemala. In 2000 JES shifted focus realizing that a foundational first step for building the new criminal justice system was the proper identification, collection and management of evidence. Almost no physical evidence was collected. Witnesses were afraid to testify in a country where gang violence was increasing exponentially and organized crime was pervasive and powerful. JES started this process by cross training police and prosecutors to collect and process physical evidence. 

The basic course trained almost 5000 police and prosecutors in 22 training sessions over 2 years. This was a first for the concept of joint and cross training. It was a crucial step to build confidence between the two institutions. The success of this approach led to a new project that focused on more advanced training. JES trained 12 Guatemalan trainers in Canada for 5 weeks. Out of this project, JES developed a 4-week training program for police and prosecutors in Guatemala. Its success led to even greater successes. By 2007 Guatemala had 500 specialized crime scene technicians and an equal number of trained prosecutors who were familiar with physical evidence collection. During that time JES also trained over 30 judges how to evaluate physical evidence. 

The success of this approach led to requests by the Attorneys General 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. JES 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. Its focus was to train prosecutors and judges on the effective presentation and evaluation of physical evidence. Training included how to develop effective accusations, opening statements, closing statements, direct and cross examination, objections, circumstantial evidence and working with specific types of physical evidence (ballistics, fingerprint, DNA, and more). In Guatemala this training was later modified to train Justices of the Peace so that the oral trials process could be extended into remote and rural communities (inclusive of many Indigenous tribes).

During this same period (2009-2013) JES secured additional Canadian government funding for the Anti-Crime Capacity Building program. JES first trained Guatemalan forensic experts and others, followed by training their counterparts in El Salvador and Honduras, on a range of specific evidence collection and analysis techniques. This included ballistic evidence collection and sharing, fingerprint evidence collection and sharing, wiretap evidence collection and presentation, forensic video evidence collection and presentation, criminal intelligence analysis, tactical and strategic analysis, development of units, and specialized investigation techniques, amongst others.

In Guatemala JES is credited with being a major contributor to the increase in successful homicide case convictions - from 5% to 28% - and in sharing over 1500 lines through wiretap related interventions.

During the 2008-2010 period, JES created a unique project that brought together Canadian Aboriginal and Mayan communities to share their respective traditional approaches to justice and restorative justice models, using the shared information to developed and implement culturally appropriate models. The project allowed leaders in both Indigenous communities to visit each other to discuss each other’s approaches to justice and models of justice making.

With Canadian government funding during 2011-2013, JES also developed a new model for criminal case investigations in the second-largest city in Guatemala - Quezaltenango. JES personnel trained over 90 new investigators and created 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.