Harmonizing MLA in East and West Africa

Harmonizing MLA in East and West Africa

Central Authorities—the engines of international judicial cooperation—play a crucial role in supporting the successful investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases. Yet Central Authority practitioners face daily challenges in navigating a labyrinth of approaches and processes that are often vastly different and through which they must access information upon which a case may depend.

The International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), through its Global Central Authorities Initiative, is a leader in the effort to support these practitioners and facilitate more effective international judicial cooperation. The foundation of this work are the IIJ Good Practices for Central Authorities, which support operationalization of Good Practice 9 of the GCTF Rabat Memorandum on Good Practices for Effective Counterterrorism Practice in the Criminal Justice Sector, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (e.g. 2322, 2396).

Building on a series of successful regional workshops in Africa and the Middle East throughout 2019 and early 2020, the IIJ worked with Central Authority officials and IIJ Alumni to identify specific areas that required further support. Harmonizing the processing of inbound and outbound mutual legal assistance (MLA) and extradition requests was identified as an urgent priority.

Collaboration with Domestic and Regional Impact
Starting with the East Africa Region, the IIJ worked with Central Authority legal counsel and prosecutors in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, to produce a standardized set of regional MLA procedural guidelines. Tanzania has already formally adopted the guidelines and Uganda will soon follow. In addition, both countries are proactively taking the next steps needed to strengthen their institutions. For example, Tanzania has taken the lead in drafting an operational manual, based on the guidelines, for its new practitioners. With assistance from the IIJ, Uganda is working to train its Central Authority practitioners to better process mutual legal assistance requests, consistent with the guidelines.

A Model for Success
Building on and replicating this success, the IIJ then worked with practitioners in West Africa, specifically Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria. Partnering with the United Kingdom Central Authority (UKCA), the IIJ facilitated the drafting of regional guidelines based on the IIJ Good Practices, followed by bilateral work with The Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria to put the new regional guidelines into practice—a great result.

Building Regional Momentum
Establishing standardized approaches to MLA across these regions has enormous advantages. It not only supports successful investigations and prosecutions, it also builds further momentum towards and confidence in cross-border judicial cooperation and inter-regional collaboration.

The IIJ is not stopping there. In the coming year, the IIJ Global Central Authorities Initiative will support practitioners in the MENA region and French-speaking West African countries. The Institute is partnering with the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes (O/SESG-GL) to further expand the scope of the standardized MLA guidelines to all other ICGLR Member States, with both the guidelines and a concrete timeline for implementation set to be presented for endorsement by Justice ministers.

Learn more about this important work here and visit theiij.org to see the IIJ In Action.

IIJ is a GCTF Inspired Institution. The Inspired Institutions are independent organizations that complement the Forum’s mission and reinforce the practical use of GCTF resources across the globe.

Photo credit: All photos provided by the IIJ