IIJ Global Central Authorities Initiative: In partnership with the UK Central Authority Capacity-Building Project – West Africa Regional Online Workshop for Developing Standardised Guidelines for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) in Criminal Matters

Starting Date2021-05-25 Ending Date2021-05-27

On 25 – 27 May 2021, the IIJ, together with the United Kingdom Central Authority (UKCA) led an online workshop for 15 legal counsel and prosecutors from Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria. The purpose of the workshop was to support the standardisation of domestic procedures for international judicial cooperation across West Africa through the discussion of a draft joint set of guidelines for processing and executing mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests. The regionally-focused workshop built on the IIJ’s earlier success in working with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in July 2020 to bring together stakeholders to discuss and agree on a standardised set of guidelines for MLA at the regional level. The impact of this project was overwhelmingly positive, with Uganda and Tanzania soon formally launching their guidelines.

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With the aim of replicating this success in West Africa, the IIJ partnered with the UKCA, which had already been working on strengthening the capabilities of central and competent authorities in the region. In April 2021, a series of individual consultations with Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria were convened with the purpose of: a) better understanding how MLA requests are issued and processed in these countries; b) assessing how judicial cooperation in criminal matters currently works among them and other West African countries; and c) identifying critical obstacles and challenges to effective and efficient processing of MLA requests.

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With this information, and a careful examination of the legal texts on MLA developed by the invited countries, the IIJ and the UKCA produced a draft document designed to serve as the basis for a standardised set of guidelines for MLA in criminal matters for Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, and Nigeria. During the May workshop, practitioners offered suggestions to improve the document and to ensure it reflected the needs and specificities of the countries in the region. The debate was enriched by the contributions provided by guest speakers from the Central Authorities of Canada, Scotland, and the United States, who shared some examples of good practices and lessons learned from their longstanding experience in dealing with MLA requests. Once a final version of the document is agreed upon, it will be formally shared with decision-makers in the participating countries for consideration and eventual approval.

For more information on this workshop or the IIJ Global Central Authorities Initiative, please contact IIJ Programme Manager Adrián Carbajo.