The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) applauded today, at its regular meeting the Inter-American Program of Judicial Facilitators (PIFJ for its initials in Spanish), for the impact it has had in bringing "justice closer to the citizens" of the region, through an interesting exercise of judicial mediation.
Starting with a video presentation on the role of the facilitators produced by the program, the representatives of the Member States and the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, talked about the successes of the project managed by the OAS Secretariat for Legal Affairs that is intended to enhance access to justice for citizens who live in some of the most isolated rural areas of the Americas.
Secretary General Insulza emphasized the great impact the program has had since its inception in 2007, and underlined "the importance of this work in strengthening our institutions and the strengthening of the rule of law." He added that "important sectors who did not have access to justice, today are able to resolve a great number of situations and conflicts without going to court and, if it is necessary, have the information they need to successfully conclude the process," he added.
The Secretary General highlighted in particular the generation of greater confidence in the judiciary shown in the six countries where the program operates, as well as the easing of congestion in local courts, the new appreciation of the role of judges and the general improvement in citizens' access to justice. "We can also highlight conflict reduction and considerable savings for users, and for the judicial system," he added.
The leader of the hemispheric organization recalled the support for the PIFJ given by the last OAS General Assembly, which approved a resolution that "mandates the OAS to continue its support to Member States that request the establishment of national systems of facilitators."
The Secretary General concluded by saying that "the facilitators have brought justice closer to citizens, strengthening our democratic institutions based on the inclusive and effective rule of law.” He added that "our work is precisely this, institution building, but above all the exercise and consolidation of democracy."
During the meeting, the Council also heard presentations on three specific cases of the positive effects of the implementation of the Judicial Facilitators Program in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama.
The President of the Supreme Court of Guatemala, Thelma Esperanza Hernandez Aldana, informed the Council that "Throughout this year, the position of the judicial facilitator has been implemented in 75 municipalities in 13 departments of the 22 that make up the Republic. This implementation represents progress in the application of preventive justice.” “We have adopted the National Judicial Facilitators Service because we firmly believe that preventive justice is more beneficial for the people than the judgment of a conflict," she continued.
Marvin Aguilar Garcia, Deputy Presiding Judge of the Supreme Court of Nicaragua, reported that in the courts of his country "the judicial facilitator is recognized as an assistant in the administration of justice, as it is stated in the law." "Access to justice is a fundamental human right that is strengthened by the service performed by judicial facilitators," he added. By emphasizing his country's commitment to the concept of the facilitators, he said that "the most important thing is the degree of availability of judicial facilitators and the free service they provide to the community."
Meanwhile, Hernán De León Batista, Justice of the Supreme Court of Panama, said that, with the help of the OAS and following the example of Nicaragua, "currently we have 668 facilitators in 40 municipal districts and in seven of the nine provinces that make up the Republic of Panama, which is half of the national territory.” He further reported that facilitators are community leaders selected by their communities, which in his opinion has a "double benefit": "It is not only what is said and how it is said, but also who says it. The information comes from a moral authority among his people, a person worthy of trust and respect. "
Before the session of the Permanent Council, Secretary General Insulza welcomed the participants in his office at the OAS headquarters in Washington, DC. During the session, the representatives of Nicaragua, Uruguay, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Guatemala and Brazil took the floor.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.