Forensics Trainings Encourage Inter-Agency Coordination

October 2012

From September 17–21, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) trained 48 Guatemalan justice sector operators on the use of scientific evidence during investigations and criminal trials. Representatives of the National Forensics Department and the Scientific Unit of the Police Department, as well as judges and prosecutors attended the training, which was held in Guatemala City.

Participants in Guatemala City meet to discuss the importance of scientific evidence in criminal proceedings

Participants in Guatemala City meet to discuss the importance of scientific evidence in criminal proceedings. 

Tania Montoya, ABA ROLI’s program director and forensic expert, Dr. Miguel Velásquez, a forensic-medicine specialist from the Institute of Legal Medicine in El Salvador, and Ana Celia Hernandez, a police investigator from El Salvador’s National Police, led the training, which focused on how to gather, store, analyze and present scientific evidence in criminal investigations and prosecutions. A continuation of ABA ROLI’s efforts to strengthen the capacity of justice sector operators and forensic experts, the training covered skills that are essential to battling the escalating violence, lack of security and high rates of impunity currently plaguing the Central American region.

Participants said that they were pleased with the lessons they learned. Dr. César Ricardo Barrientos, magistrate president of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, said, “The course is very interesting and innovative. For the first time, Guatemala has the opportunity to rely on important tools for judges and prosecutors to combat crime through the use of forensic science.”

Previously, ABA ROLI held similar workshops in El Salvador and Belize as part of its regional initiative to improve the use of forensic evidence in an accusatorial system. The program has been well-received by local partners. A participant of the training held in Belize said, “Crimes and criminals evolve daily and are always two steps ahead of the justice system and its agents. The only way to combat the criminals is to ensure that our method of investigation and prosecutions is up to par with the criminals. This can best be achieved if we continuously re-evaluate and improve our strategies, and do so through concerted effort.”

These workshops present an excellent opportunity for key justice sector operators to discuss collective strategies. ABA ROLI will continue to support the efforts of Central American institutions to improve inter-agency coordination in combating crime. Over the coming months, ABA ROLI will develop manuals on crime scene protection and preservation, and publish an evidentiary benchbook that will clearly establish legal principles for introducing and analyzing forensic and physical evidence in criminal cases.

To learn more about our work in Central America, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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