Panamanian confidence in security institutions has declined dramatically in recent years. In response, the previous administration undertook a series of reforms aimed at improving security and enhancing the credibility of the country’s justice institutions. The reforms included the ratification of new criminal and criminal procedure codes and the restructuring of the police force to include a Judicial Investigation Bureau. Among other changes, the criminal procedure code establishes an accusatorial criminal justice system that is currently being implemented at the provincial level by the current administration of President Ricardo Martinelli.
Despite these reforms, challenges remain. Limited cooperation between the Judicial Investigation Bureau and the National Police constrains efficiency. Both novice and veteran justice operators need to be trained in the functions of the accusatorial system. Training of judges, lawyers, prosecutors and police will also be critical to the success of these reforms.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is working with the National Police to revise and update their training curriculum based on the recent reforms, and to further professionalize and certify police academy trainers. Additionally, we are working to improve the capacity of civil society organizations to conduct effective advocacy campaigns and to strengthen justice institutions’ ability to implement the new criminal justice system. ABA ROLI’s Panama programs help promote not only increased access to justice but also greater transparency across the criminal justice sector.