The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) implements a Culture of Lawfulness Program in Panama, which is funded by the U.S. Embassy's Narcotics Affairs Section. In this Spanish-language podcast of an April 2009 interview, Captain Mariana Alarcón, coordinator of the program, gives an overview of the program, its significance for the rule of law in Panama and the progress it has made thus far. Excerpts follow:
In seeking to promote a culture of lawfulness, the program works to encourage respect for the rule of law and for fundamental human rights both by the government and by society as a whole. More specifically, the program works to bolster the culture of lawfulness among police and other law enforcement agencies, to increase Panamanian citizens’ confidence in their justice sector.
The program will prepare and distribute a new police training manual, providing basic instruction in investigative techniques—including crime scene management and chain of custody—with a particular underlying emphasis on the culture of lawfulness. In doing so, the manual will help the National Police to prepare for the new oral, accusatorial system which is being implemented in Panama, starting with the provinces of Coclé and Veraguas in mid-2009. The new system will set heightened evidentiary requirements while providing for a critical investigative role for police. In order to facilitate the transition to this new system, the program has begun training of the National Police and its Judicial Investigation Department, as well as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and forensics experts.
The program has convened a working group of Panamanian and international experts, which is evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the police training regimen. The working group is continuing to provide suggestions on current legislation, human rights (including the rights of the accused), reasonable use of force, victim assistance and crime scene preservation.
Although there is still significant work to do, Captain Alarcón notes that the National Police is receptive and eager to work with the program to strengthen and build its institutional capacity.