Arrangements for Mutual Legal Assistance
Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters A mutual legal assistance agreement (MLAT) is an agreement between two or more countries for the collection and exchange of information for the purpose of enforcing public or criminal law. A request for mutual legal assistance is often used to formally question a suspect in criminal proceedings if the suspect resides in a foreign country. In 2003, the EU signed the first international agreements in the field of justice and home affairs. Both agreements entered into force on 1 February 2010. The EU-US framework agreements facilitate and accelerate assistance between the EU and the US. Modern states have developed mechanisms to request and obtain evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions. Where evidence or other forms of mutual legal assistance, such as the testimony of witnesses or the service of documents, are required by a foreign sovereign, States may seek to cooperate informally through their respective police services or resort to what are generally referred to as « requests for mutual legal assistance ».  The practice of mutual legal assistance has evolved from the community system of requests for mutual legal assistance, although it is now much more common for States to address requests for mutual legal assistance directly to the designated central authority in each State. In current practice, such requests can still be made on the basis of reciprocity, but also on the basis of bilateral and multilateral treaties that oblige countries to provide assistance. The Organized Crime Convention also obliges States parties to provide mutual legal assistance to the extent possible. 2.
Mutual legal assistance shall be provided to the greatest extent possible, in accordance with the relevant laws, treaties, agreements and understandings of the requested State Party with respect to the investigation, prosecution and judicial proceedings relating to offences for which a legal person may be held responsible in the requesting State Party under article 10 of this Convention. In addition to MLATs, the United States has a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (MLAA) with China as well as an MLAA between the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States. The United States has also concluded some executive agreements on cooperation on drug confiscation, including: an agreement with the United Kingdom that provides assistance in confiscation and asset-sharing in drug cases; an agreement on the confiscation of cooperation and asset-sharing agreements with the Kingdom of the Netherlands; and a drug confiscation agreement with Singapore. The United States has asset-sharing agreements with Canada, the Cayman Islands (which have been extended to Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands), Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico and Monaco. Many countries are able to provide a wide range of mutual legal assistance to other countries through their ministries of justice, even in the absence of a treaty, through joint investigations between the law enforcement authorities of the two countries, requests for urgency, requests for mutual legal assistance, etc. However, in some developing countries, national laws may in fact create obstacles to effective cooperation between law enforcement authorities and mutual legal assistance.  These examples of technical assistance instruments should be used by States to promote more effective cooperation in criminal matters with cross-border implications. As provided for in the Organized Crime Convention, mutual legal assistance may be requested for: The Honiara Declaration « calls for a number of procedural and substantive measures to promote law enforcement cooperation, mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, control of money-laundering, confiscation of assets and banking regulations, extradition, the fight against drug-related offences, the fight against environmental offences, the fight against terrorism to be provided. Maritime surveillance, tax cooperation, assistance to the prison administration and the treatment of indigenous issues.
Other areas identified by the Forum after Honiara include human trafficking, regional security, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, identity fraud and corruption. [Boister, Neil (2004). Transnational crime in the Pacific. The University of the South Pacific (USP).] The Office of U.S. Citizen Services has general information leaflets on international legal assistance, many of which are available through our automated fax system or through our consular affairs homepage on the Internet. These topics include country-specific information on the delivery of the procedure and the taking of evidence abroad. (i) Any other form of assistance that does not violate the domestic law of the requested State Party. Many leaflets on legal assistance are also available on the Internet via the home page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of Consular Affairs at the URL: travel.state.gov under « Legal Assistance » or via the main homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under www.state.gov/ under « Travel ». See also the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Legal Adviser in Private International Law (L/PIL) for information on the work of the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the OAS at the Association of Private International Law. See also the homepages of several of our embassies linked to the Consular Affairs home page. The traditional instrument of mutual legal assistance has been requests for mutual legal assistance – a formal request from the judicial authority of one State to a judicial authority of another State, when the requested judicial authority is asked to perform one or more specific acts on behalf of the requesting judicial authority, usually to collect evidence and interview witnesses.
These requests are transmitted in a conventional manner through diplomatic channels. Once the prosecutor has prepared a request, it is certified by the competent national court of the requesting State and then handed over by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of that State to the embassy of the requested State (Funk, 2014; Efrat and Newman, 2017). The Embassy shall forward the request to the competent judicial authorities of the requested State. Once the request is complete, the command is reversed. Mutual legal assistance in mutual legal assistance in criminal matters (MLAT) treaties is relatively new. They are aimed at improving the effectiveness of mutual legal assistance and at regulating and facilitating its procedures. Each country designates a central authority, usually the two ministries of justice, for direct communication.