How can the transmission and execution of requests for mutual assistance in terrorist matters be sped up in the Sahel and what role can cooperation networks play in this?
Terrorist organizations plan, organize, and execute their terrorist attacks beyond national borders. Efficient and effective prosecution of these terrorist acts, therefore, requires the collection of evidence scattered over several states with sometimes different legal systems through requests for mutual legal assistance. However, this activity must be done in strict compliance with the rules of procedure, human rights, and the rule of law.
In the context of the judicial treatment of terrorist cases in the Sahel region, very few requests for mutual assistance in criminal matters have been made. Magistrates often explain this lack of interest by the fact that these requests for mutual assistance in criminal matters are rarely or never executed. When they are, they are unacceptably delayed.
This is often caused by the time elapsed during the transmitting of the actual documents. When time is of the essence in criminal proceedings, especially the ones relating to acts of terrorism, the very formalities which are there to ensure a safe working relation put society in danger by delaying justice.
The use of advance copy in the transmission of requests for mutual assistance in criminal matters may be a way of getting around these difficulties. It consists of sending a copy of the officially transmitted request for mutual assistance in criminal matters to the requested party directly or via preferred cooperation networks. This presupposes that all the information required for the proper execution of the request has been gathered and sent beforehand to ensure swift results: the competent authority for execution, the legal basis of the request, the requirements of the law of the requested country, the form in which the request must be transmitted and received, etc.
While the use of direct communication between central authorities or the authorities which deal with mutual legal assistance requests, it is important to know that these cooperation networks have a large community of practitioners and can therefore facilitate the connection between requesting and requested magistrates so that they can discuss the details of the execution of the mutual assistance request.
These cooperation networks include, but are not limited to:
1. The Sahel Cooperation Platform ( PCJC)
2. The West African Network of Prosecutors and Authorities ( WACAP)
3. INTERPOL Regional and National Bureaus