by Camila López Badra
Latin America and the Caribbean embody a paradox: despite having improved the levels of development of its population in the last decades, the region continues to consolidate itself as the most violent on the planet. According to the latest report “Crime and violence” conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), “the region accounts for 39% of world homicides, though it has only 9% of the global population.” (Alavarado, N y Muggah, R (2018). “Crimen y violencia: un obstáculo para el desarrollo de las ciudades de América Latina y el Caribe,” page 5.)
Although crime and violence are complex phenomenons of study, the presence of organized crime in the region is one of their main causes – evidenced mainly through drug gangs and trafficking in arms and persons. Latin America and the Caribbean face an unequal struggle: on the one hand, there are transnational mafias with connections that easily evade national borders and on the other hand, political and legal systems can not judge them properly.
Faced with this reality that represents a direct threat to democracy and human rights, the Argentine NGO “Democracia Global – Movimiento por la Unión Sudamericana y el Parlamento Mundial” created in 2013 the campaign to establish a Latin American and Caribbean Criminal Court against Transnational Organized Crime (COPLA, for its acronym in Spanish).
At the juridical level, this Court seeks to prosecute key members of criminal groups: it points directly at figures such as Chapo Guzmán and Pablo Escobar. A second objective is to confiscate their assets. The preliminary Statute of this future Court – based on the Palermo Convention, of which almost all Latin American countries are signatories – has already been drafted by a group of legal experts specialized in international and constitutional law. Even though this draft will most likely be modified once states accept to join the proposed Court, the campaign continues working in the meantime on guidelines for a Prosecutor’s Office and a Regional Coordination Agency that would be accompanying organs of the Court.
An up-to-date progress summary
In Argentina, the campaign has achieved impressive results. It has become a state policy of the country. There are favorable resolutions from both Chambers of Congress. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Ministry of Security and the Anti-Corruption Office are actively supporting it.
At the regional level, it is supported by the Mercosur Parliament, where Ministers of Justice, Security and Interior of Mercosur countries have agreed to evaluate it as a possible initiative to fight against organized crime. Last November, the Declaration of Buenos Aires stating support for COPLA was signed by parliamentarians from throughout the region during the Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit at the G20 in Buenos Aires.
At the international level, the campaign was supported by the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly and the Argentine group of Parliamentarians for Global Action. President Mauricio Macri and Vice President Gabriela Michetti called for the creation of such an organ during their speeches at the UN General Assembly in 2018 and 2017.
In addition to the statements of support, the COPLA campaign has been presented at countless events and conferences around the world. In March, it was exhibited during the first edition of the Italo-Argentinian Anti-Mafia Seminar in Buenos Aires, attended by the high authorities of the National Anti-Mafia and Antiterrorism Directorate, President Macri and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Jorge Faurie. During the presentation of the COPLA initiative, Raul Jungman (former Minister of Public Security of Brazil) asserted the importance of the Court by stating the “need to create an authority that leads to the convergence of criminal laws and intelligence operations in the Latin American region.”
During the same month, the city of Buenos Aires hosted the Second United Nations High Level Conference on South-South Cooperation. The COPLA initiative was presented at a side event as an important tool in the advancement of regional integration.
Last but not least, the proposal was introduced during the Subregional Parliamentary Workshop organized in the city of Montevideo and attended by parliamentarians from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
Significant progress has been made if we consider the years of life of this campaign. But much remains to be done. The next step is to obtain declarations of support from other Parliaments of Latin America and the Caribbean. An ultimate goal of COPLA is to create more just and equitable societies, in addition to fostering integration among the countries of the region.
If you are interested in signing the petition in support of the creation of this Court, please visit www.coalicioncopla.org.