August 31, 2015

Central Asia Stakeholders Explore Best Practices in Prosecuting Drug Crimes on US-Mexico Border

In August, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) brought 11 legal professionals from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — representing judiciaries, defense bars, ministries of interior and security services, and prosecuting offices — to Brownsville, Texas to experience firsthand the U.S. response to drug trafficking on the U.S.-Mexico border. Brownsville is located within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector, which is one of the most active sectors for both federal and state agencies in the interdiction and prosecution of illegal marijuana, cocaine and immigrants in the U.S.

During their time in the U.S., the Central Asian representatives were able to meet with counterparts from federal, state and local criminal justice jurisdictions, as well as key agencies, organizations and individuals that represent different facets of the interdiction, investigation and prosecution of international narcotics trafficking crimes on the U.S.-Mexico border. In particular, the delegation met with U.S. district judges, federal prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office, and agents from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol, as well as Texas state attorneys, law enforcement officers and the Brownsville mayor’s office.

Throughout the meetings, Central Asian and U.S. stakeholders engaged in meaningful discussion on the challenges both regions face when interdicting and prosecuting drug crimes. The group also had the opportunity to observe court hearings which enabled them to see not only the procedural aspects of the U.S. criminal justice system but also explore approaches in sentencing guidelines, the roles of prosecutors and defense attorneys and opportunity for probation. As a result of their visit, the delegation now has a better understanding of areas of opportunity and best practices that could be potentially applicable in the Central Asian countries.

Following their time in the U.S., the representatives are developing recommendations to take to national working groups which are considering action plans for criminal justice reforms. ABA ROLI will be hosting a series of regional and national roundtables over the coming months to explore these recommendations and determine their feasibility in the Central Asian context.

This study tour took place as part of ABA ROLI’s Court Monitoring of Drug Related Cases in Central Asia program which is supported with funding from the Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

To learn more about our work in Central Asia, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at