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Central America Forensic Program

Strengthening Forensic Capacity in Central America

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) program to strengthen forensic capacity in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize and Panama seeks to bolster the use of scientific evidence in criminal cases. By working with police, crime scene technicians, forensic scientists, prosecutors and judges, ABA ROLI is enhancing justice institutions’ ability to gather, store, analyze and present scientific evidence in criminal investigations and prosecutions.

The program is promoting greater coordination between forensics laboratories and other law enforcement agencies through the establishment and support of a forensics working group in each country. These working groups encourage regional cooperation through joint trainings at academies, shared resources, such as procedure manuals, and meetings for increased dialogue. The program is also developing a regional evidentiary benchbook to provide judges and prosecutors with a reference guide for the resolution of legal issues related to forensic evidence. The publication will guide prosecutors and attorneys on the use of forensic evidence in trial, and also provide judges with a legal and analytical framework for evaluating the evidence.

Moreover, ABA ROLI is standardizing and integrating processes and procedures within forensic laboratories and between forensic laboratories, police and prosecutors. These process reforms will result in a more efficient and effective use of resources, leading to an increased quality of justice.

Finally, U.S. and regional experts are conducting trainings for justice administrators on a wide variety of forensics-related topics, including crime scene protection, chain of custody, selection of expert witnesses and basic evidence-collection techniques. Teaching proper investigation methods will help ensure a successful prosecution, as well as accountability, transparency and due process.