While Ecuador embarked on its transition to an accusatorial system in 2001, for the first few years there was little effort invested in clarifying the roles of varying criminal justice actors, such as judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the police. This resulted in limited coordination among institutions, gaps in the preparation of criminal cases and, ultimately, failed prosecutions.
Led by international experts, the August and September trainings taught police officers and investigators best investigative practices, the legal framework for investigations and prosecutions, and the investigator's role in providing evidence under the oral, accusatorial trial process. The trainings also included simulations, to demonstrate crime-scene protection and processing, and testimonies.
ABA ROLI Country Director Al Amado said that there was a historical and deeply-rooted lack of communication between prosecutors and police, as well as a lack of technical skills and knowledge among police officers, which was not fully exposed under the previous system. Amado added that under the former system, the judge controlled the filing of charges, pre-trial proceedings and trial stages. “[The judge played] the role of coordinating the process and aligning the roles of the prosecutor and police,” said Amado. “Now, a more restrictive judicial role means that someone has to fill this void. Without that coordination, the prosecution and police will flounder in the presentation of the case at trial and guilty people will walk free.”
To promote better collaboration throughout the criminal justice sector, ABA ROLI launched its initiatives in Ecuador in 2006.
Jorge Quesada, a retired U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent who served as a trainer, said that ABA ROLI’s training methodology allows the trainers to “identify [and focus on] areas where there are knowledge voids or deficits.” Quesada said that the technical skills participants gained will help improve prosecutorial outcomes.
Dr. Gloria Hoyos, a Colombian forensic medical expert who also led parts of the training, agrees that training officers in forensic sciences is especially impactful. “Knowledge about the advances in forensic sciences and training the officers who investigate these cases is critical,” said Hoyos. “It is vital to the search for justice and truth in the trial proceedings.”
The training was well received by participants. Ecuadorian National Police Major Geovanny Guzman said, “It has allowed me to learn and practice the skills I have acquired regarding the oral trial process and forensic sciences. The instructors have been extremely well prepared and I have learned so much that will help me in my daily work investigating crimes.”
ABA ROLI will select 20 participants to take part in a training of trainers later this year. Eventually, the courses will be incorporated into the curriculum of the National Police’s academy and those who complete the training of trainers will help train the approximately 3,000 Ecuadorian police officers.
To learn more about our work in Ecuador, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].