The Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the Institute for Legal Support and Technical Assistance (ILSTA) held a conference on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters in Vientiane on June 12-13. The conference brought together all relevant national agencies including the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the State Inspection Authority and the Bank of Laos.
The conference learned from the experience of international experts who presented best practices in receiving and executing mutual legal assistance requests. Dr Jumpon Phansumrit from the Office of the Attorney General in Bangkok shared the experience of the Kingdom of Thailand in this area.
Mutual legal assistance in criminal matters is a process by which States seek and provide assistance in gathering evidence for use in criminal cases. States are obligated under international law to provide the widest measure of mutual legal assistance in investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings. This cooperation is crucial in the fight against transnational organised crime.
Laos is a state party to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and other international agreements which afford reciprocal mutual legal assistance to other state parties. However, Lao PDR does not yet have a domestic law on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
Adopting a domestic law on mutual legal assistance is crucial for Laos. Particularly in light of the upcoming mutual evaluation that will be carried out by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to review the country’s implementation of anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). Laos will undergo its second mutual evaluation by the Asia Pacific Group (APG) in 2020.
Enhanced international cooperation is essential in the fight against organised crime and one of the most important tools in this fight is a sound mutual legal assistance structure and mechanism based on law.
The meeting was chaired by the Vice Minister of Justice Mr Bounsavath Boupha and Mr Richard Philippart, President of ILSTA. The conference was supported by Luxembourg Development Cooperation and the Government of Canada.