Roundtable discussion with Fernando Iglesias on the Campaign for the creation of a Latin American and Caribbean Criminal Court Against Transnational Organised Crime

Brussels – 10 February 2017

On Friday 10 February 2017 No Peace Without Justice hosted in his office in Brussels a roundtable discussion with Dr Fernando Adolfo Iglesias*, Director of the Campaign for the establishment of a Latin American and Caribbean Criminal Court Against Transnational Organized Crime (COPLA, after its Spanish acronym). The campaign is building a coalition of Latin American and Caribbean organizations committed to the creation of a regional judicial body to fight against organised criminal networks in Latin America.
Participants to the roundtable included Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, Secretary General of NPWJ and Alison Smith, Director of International Criminal Justice Program, together with representatives of other international NGOs (the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), Fair TrialsTransparency International and FIDH). The meeting was held in the framework of the Brown Bag Lunch seminar series, which consists of monthly lectures by prominent speakers and experts on human rights and political issues relevant to NPWJ’s work.
Dr. Iglesias explained the motivations that make the creation of the COPLA necessary, how the COPLA is related to federalism in South America, and how this has been blocked by the disagreement between states. He then highlighted the peculiarity of organised crime in South America, which causes dramatic number of victims, higher than anywhere else in the world. It now represents the biggest threat to human rights in Southern America, having replaced political violence in such a manner that now the basic social discrimination is about security, the possibilities available of surviving the day. Moreover, it represents a limit to economic development of the countries, due to the multinational and transnational nature and its influence on the state structure itself and the submerged economy. State forces cannot fight it effectively due to the disparity of means with the networks of organised crime, which have huge economic and technologic resources, while the state security forces have to work with grave budget restraints.
These issues were already discussed during the creation of the International Criminal Court, when Trinidad and Tobago proposed to include organised crime among the competences of the Court. However, this proposal was not accepted, and consequently the Palermo Convention on Transnational Organised Crime was stipulated. The COPLA would be a court enforcing the provisions of the Convention.

Dr. Iglesias stressed that it is important to keep a Latin American aim for this fight and not to focus on North America, since the South it is the producer and exporter of the criminal networks and due to this the Latin American countries suffer a different level of impact from the phenomenon. Moreover, the COPLA should demonstrate the autonomy and capacity of Latin American states in regard of the involvement of Northern-American states, especially the U.S. Lastly, the court should exist independently from already existing initiatives such as trade agreements or political pacts, in order not to involve it with economic or commercial issues.
After this, referring to the need of an international agreement, Dr. Iglesias explained some of the practical arrangements forecasted that the court will need in order to effectively work. First, every member state should participate in the formation of the court. Each state should nominate a judge and a prosecutor to be proposed to the State Parties Assembly to be approved by the majority. This arrangement aims to prevent the collusion between Criminal Networks and State. Second, each State Party should provide a police force that should receive a high-level training, follow the Court’s orders but that is supposed to act also from within the security system of the state of origin. Third, each State Party is supposed to provide a high-security prison where criminals convicted from the court could be held in order to avoid an easier access to corruption. The State Parties will be expected to pay for the judges and prosecutors, the police forces and prisons. The rest of budget needed would be shared between the state parties.
Dr. Iglesias finally concluded his intervention stressing how the COPLA would play a similar role in complementary as the one played but the ICC and how its main aims will be to focus on prosecution, destruction of networks and seizure of assets to be given back to the society.
The round table was concluded by a Q&A session during which Dr. Iglesias, answering to different issues raised by other participants, tackled the subject of prevention effect and effectiveness of the court, and moreover explained clearly how the court is needed because other form of coordination among states already implemented in South America aren’t working, due also to the huge influence that criminal networks have on the judicial systems of their country of origin. Hence, an international court that is able to be distant from such influence is much needed.
*Fernando A. Iglesias (former Argentine, Mercosur and Latin-American MP) is a writer and journalist, the founder of Democracia Global, the director of the campaign for a Latin-American Criminal Court against Transnational Organized Crime, the World Federalist Movement council chairman and the director of the Altiero Spinelli Cathedra on regional integration (CUIA-Buenos Aires).
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