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September 18, 2018

Retired French Judge Advises Haitian Justice Sector on Anti-Corruption

The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) Program to Strengthen the Haitian Justice Sector helps strengthen the technical capacity of the Haitian justice sector to effectively investigate, prosecute and adjudicate criminal cases in accordance with current and anticipated criminal legislation. ABA ROLI works to increase the effectiveness of investigative judges and improve procedures and oversight at Port-au-Prince police stations. ABA ROLI also assists with the creation of mentoring groups for judges and prosecutors to further reinforce skills to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate financial crimes. This ongoing mentorship program connects judges and prosecutors assigned to financial crimes with renowned French judge, Armand Riberolles, who leads group and one-on-one sessions for judges and prosecutors from Haiti’s two jurisdictions with the highest volume of corruption cases. Riberolles discusses examples of complex cases he has handled in France, including those involving the prosecution of senior government officials. He explains how he structures his investigations, gathers evidence and organizes his voluminous files, as well as how he addresses pressure from politicians and the media. He advises his mentees on how to maximize conviction probabilities by thinking strategically about what charges to file and when.

ABA ROLI recently interviewed Riberolles to ask him about his experience volunteering with the program and translated his responses from French.

Armand Riberolles (right).

ABA ROLI: Please provide us with a brief description of your background.

Riberolles: “As a judge, I held various positions including nine years as lead investigative judge in the financial department of the Grand Instance Tribunal (Superior Court) of Paris where I presided over numerous cases of corruption, particularly in public procurement. I was also a legal advisor to the Permanent Mission of France to the U.N. in Geneva and more recently a member of the Judicial Services’ General Inspection. It was just when I was about to leave the latter to retire, that the director of the ABA ROLI office in Haiti contacted me about the project to support the establishment of the Judicial Inspection Unit of the Haitian High Judicial Council (that) I decided to take up the challenge.”

ABA ROLI: As a financial crimes mentor, please provide us with a brief overview of the program and your work on the program.

Riberolles: “As part of the efforts to transpose the Inter-American Convention and the U.N. Convention against Corruption, the Haitian Parliament passed a law in 2013 creating a whole series of offenses relating to corruption. It was followed in 2014 by a law specifically on money laundering. These two texts (laws), which conform to international standards, have not, however, been followed by concrete results in terms of judicial decisions.

One of the obstacles identified was the lack of training on this specific part of criminal law which has a certain level of complexity.

The mentoring has consisted in regularly (every two months) bringing together all the players in the penal (criminal) chain who might have to deal with criminal financial matters: prosecutors, investigative judges, judges of the Court of First Instance of Port-au-Prince and Croix des Bouquets and judges from the Court of Appeal.

It also became clear that there was a need to teach the magistrates on the theory and the practice of delegating investigations to the judicial police as well as on international judicial cooperation. Particular attention was also paid to the risks of corruption in all phases of public procurement.

Finally, knowing both the actors and the field made it possible to identify that the lack of communication and coordination between the various actors in charge of the fight against corruption and money laundering was a significant obstacle. These actors include the Anti-Corruption Unit (ULCC), the Financial Unit (UCREF), the prosecutor's office and investigative judges. A session which brought them all together was devoted entirely to this issue.”

ABA ROLI: How are these financial crime sessions assisting the Haitian justice sector officials?

Riberolles: “In theory, the participating magistrates now have the necessary training in special criminal law to be able to deal with financial crimes. However, the high turnover of actors in the judicial sector will undoubtedly require training of trainers.

The interactive sessions led to a number of legal issues being identified that Haitian magistrates could encounter in practice. Joint reflections allowed them to find solutions in line with the law and with the need to pursue financial crimes more effectively.

On the other hand, some sessions have also provided an opportunity to put into perspective (and compare) the Haitian Criminal Code, which mostly dates from the 19th century, with the provisions contained in the constitution and the international human rights instruments to which Haiti is a party. Ways of changing practices — in particular for investigative judges — were (also) clearly identified and should be translated into rapid implementation: notifying the accused of the alleged offenses and their rights, (and) the reasons for the decisions to keep someone in pre-trial detention in particular. (To assist with this) printed materials are being developed.

The relationship of trust based on transparency and common reflection allows for the magistrates who need it, to ask for my assistance when they are confronted with complex or unique legal difficulties. I try, when possible, to accompany their reflections with references from French jurisprudence.”

ABA ROLI: What challenges do the Haitian courts face with the new law (on money-laundering) and how is ABA ROLI assisting in the transition?

Riberolles: “The 2013 and 2014 laws are in reality an opportunity since they clearly define situations of corruption and money laundering.

With the mentoring, ABA ROLI has been able to, beyond the traditional trainings, engage with stakeholders and promote their own reflections to identify their challenges but also the areas where progress can be rapidly achieved. In this respect, the chief judge of the First Instance Tribunal and the president of the Court of Appeals of Port-au-Prince are clearly actors of change.

For example, the president of the Court of Appeals of Port-au-Prince has set up a specialized section within his jurisdiction to hear appeals on financial crimes. The judges who make up this section are among the most assiduous during the mentoring sessions.

The same applies to the chief judge of the First Instance Tribunal when he assigns an investigative judge to oversee a financial crime case.” 

ABA ROLI: What are the goals for the financial crimes mentees/unit moving forward?

Riberolles: “Beyond mastering the laws on corruption and money laundering, the need to master the process of investigation itself is essential. It (the investigation) will ultimately decide whether a case should be brought before the court. In the context of financial crimes, the investigation is most often initiated by specialized bodies such as the ULCC and the UCREF, to whom the law has entrusted certain powers of investigation. On their end, the investigative judges, when cases are brought before them, must be able to delegate certain investigations to the specialized units of the judicial police.

The reliability of the cases depends to a large extent on the quality of the work of these investigators. On certain themes, they should receive technical support from investigators and experts in the field of financial crimes: developing investigation strategies, what evidence to look for in a given context, how and with whom to obtain them in accordance with the procedures, how to call an expert to understand the data collected, (and) how to approach foreign police or judicial authorities when necessary.”

To learn more about our work in Haiti, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected]