Foreign Assistance: U.S. Rule of Law Assistance to Five Latin American
Countries (Letter Report, 08/04/1999, GAO/NSIAD-99-195).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined U.S. rule of law
assistance programs in five Latin American countries--Colombia, El
Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama, focusing on: (1) what U.S.
rule of law assistance has helped each country achieve; (2) what factors
have affected the implementation of reforms in the respective criminal
justice systems; and (3) how U.S. missions in each country plan and
coordinate their rule of law assistance programs.

GAO noted that: (1) based on GAO's review of program documentation and
evaluations, interviews with U.S. and host country officials and
nongovernmental interest groups, and selected site visits, GAO
determined that U.S. rule of law assistance has helped these countries
undertake legal and institutional judicial reforms, improve the
capabilities of the police and other law enforcement institutions, and
increase citizen access to the justice system; (2) for example: (a) with
the Agency for International Development's (AID) assistance, Colombia,
El Salvador, and Guatemala revised criminal codes and have trained
judges, prosecutors, and other justice officials in how to implement
them; (b) the Department of Justice helped police forces make the
transition from military to civilian control in El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras, and Panama and has provided assistance to law enforcement
institutions in all countries in administration, investigations,
forensics, and related matters; and (c) AID helped create local justice
centers in Colombia and Guatemala where citizens could arbitrate
disputes and obtain legal advice; based on the popularity of pilot
projects in these two countries, the governments are establishing
centers in other locations; (3) the five countries GAO visited are in
various stages of reforming their criminal justice systems, but reforms
in all of them have been affected by a number of challenges and
constraints; (4) these include institutional weaknesses, limited
resources, lingering resistance to reforms, corruption, and widespread
crime; (5) host government officials and legal experts noted that
continued assistance from the international community is needed to help
encourage host governments to devote the necessary resources to enact,
implement, and maintain justice reforms; (6) they also emphasized that
lasting reform of criminal justice systems is a long-term effort that
requires a sustained host government commitment; (7) U.S. missions in
the five countries GAO visited had country teams as well as rule of law
teams, headed by the Ambassador, that planned and coordinated U.S. rule
of law activities; (8) the Ambassador or Deputy Chief of Mission
normally chaired regularly scheduled meetings with these teams to help
ensure that program duplication and other conflicts did not occur; (9)
GAO identified no instances of duplication of efforts or conflicting
activities among agencies; and (10) U.S. agencies also coordinated their
rule of law activities with host country counterparts and with other
donors to help ensure that country needs were addressed.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-99-195
     TITLE:  Foreign Assistance: U.S. Rule of Law Assistance to Five
	     Latin American Countries
      DATE:  08/04/1999
   SUBJECT:  Federal aid for criminal justice
	     Judicial reform
	     International cooperation
	     Police training
	     Federal aid to foreign countries
	     Foreign governments
	     Law enforcement
	     Foreign aid programs
	     International relations
IDENTIFIER:  DOJ International Criminal Investigative Training
	     Assistance Program
	     El Salvador
	     Guatemala
	     Honduras
	     Panama
	     Colombia
	     DOJ Overseas Prosectorial Development Assistance and
	     Training Program
	     Rule of Law Program

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A Report to Congressional Requesters

August 1999 FOREIGN ASSISTANCE

U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Five Latin American Countries

GAO/NSIAD-99-195

National Security and International Affairs Division

B-282585 Letter August 4, 1999 Congressional Requesters Since the
early 1980s, the United States has provided rule of law assistance
to Latin American and Caribbean countries to improve their justice
system institutions as a way to strengthen democracy. 1 During the
1990s, U. S. rule of law assistance has focused on supporting
efforts to reform criminal justice systems, including judicial
institutions and the police and other law enforcement agencies, in
many of these countries. At the 1998 Summit of the Americas, the
leaders of most Western Hemisphere countries pledged their support
for these and other reforms as a means to promote

democracy, long- term development, and respect for human rights
throughout the region. 2 At your request, we examined U. S. rule
of law assistance programs in five Latin American countries
Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama.
Specifically, we determined (1) what U. S. rule of law assistance
has helped each country achieve, (2) what factors have affected
implementation of reforms in the respective criminal justice
systems, and (3) how U. S. missions in each country plan and
coordinate their rule of law assistance programs. In a separate
report, as agreed with your offices, we identified U. S. rule of
law assistance funds provided worldwide in fiscal years 1993- 98.
3 Also, we are reporting separately on coordination efforts among
the cognizant departments and agencies in Washington, D. C.

Since the early 1990s, the United States has provided more than
$160 million worth of rule of law assistance to these countries
primarily through the U. S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) and the Department of Justice. To varying extents, the
criminal justice systems in all five countries have historically
been characterized by arbitrary arrests, 1 Until 1990, the United
States provided rule of law (or administration of justice)
assistance primarily to countries in Latin America and the
Caribbean. In 1989, the Congress directed that part of the U. S.
assistance to Central and Eastern Europe target the development of
democratic institutions, including an independent judiciary. 2
Santiago Summit of the Americas Documents (Santiago, Chile: Apr.
18- 19, 1998).

3 In fiscal years 1993- 98, the United States provided at least $970 million in rule of law assistance to more than 180 countries. See Foreign Assistance: Rule of Law Funding Worldwide for Fiscal Years 1993- 98 (

GAO/NSIAD-99-158
, June 30, 1999).
3 In fiscal years 1993- 98, the United States provided at least
$970 million in rule of law assistance to more than 180 countries.
See Foreign Assistance: Rule of Law Funding Worldwide for Fiscal
Years 1993- 98 (  GAO/NSIAD-99-158 , June 30, 1999).

lengthy pretrial detentions, corruption, and a lack of
transparency (openness) in applying laws. Assistance from the
United States and other donors is intended to help these countries
institute the criminal justice system reforms necessary to address
these problems. We refer to the U. S. rule of law assistance
programs in these countries throughout this report and summarize
their overall status, results, and challenges in appendixes I
through V.

Results in Brief Based on our review of program documentation and
evaluations, interviews with U. S. and host country officials and
nongovernmental interest groups, and selected site visits, we
determined that U. S. rule of law assistance has helped these
countries undertake legal and institutional judicial reforms,
improve the capabilities of the police and other law enforcement
institutions, and increase citizen access to the justice system.
For example,  with USAID's assistance, Colombia, El Salvador, and
Guatemala revised criminal codes and have trained judges,
prosecutors, and other justice

officials in how to implement them;  the U. S. Department of
Justice helped police forces make the transition from military to
civilian control in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama
(but not Colombia) and has provided assistance to law

enforcement institutions in all countries in administration,
investigations, forensics, and related matters; and  USAID helped
create local justice centers in Colombia and Guatemala

where citizens could arbitrate disputes and obtain legal advice;
based on the popularity of pilot projects in these two countries,
the governments are establishing centers in other locations. The
five countries we visited are in various stages of reforming their
criminal justice systems, but reforms in all of them have been
affected by a number of challenges and constraints. These include
institutional weaknesses, limited resources, lingering resistance
to reforms, corruption, and widespread crime. Host government
officials and legal experts noted that continued assistance from
the international community particularly

the United States is needed to help encourage host governments to
devote the necessary resources to enact, implement, and maintain
justice reforms. They also emphasized that lasting reform of
criminal justice systems is a long- term effort that requires a
sustained host government commitment.

U. S. missions in the five countries we visited had country teams
as well as rule of law teams, headed by the Ambassador, that
planned and coordinated U. S. rule of law activities. The
Ambassador or Deputy Chief of Mission normally chaired regularly
scheduled meetings with these teams to help ensure that program
duplication and other conflicts did not occur. We identified no
instances of duplication of efforts or conflicting activities
among agencies. U. S. agencies also coordinated their rule of law
activities with host country counterparts and with other donors to
help ensure that country needs were addressed. According to U. S.,
host country, and other

international donor officials, this coordination has worked well.
Background Over the years, U. S. rule of law assistance has been
primarily extended in the form of training, technical advice, and
related support. Two agencies have implemented the majority of U.
S. rule of law assistance in the five countries we visited USAID
and the Department of Justice's International Criminal
Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) group. USAID
has focused on improving the capabilities of judges, prosecutors,
and public defenders and their respective institutions as well as
increasing the population's access to the services provided by
justice institutions. ICITAP has emphasized enhancing the overall
capabilities of the police and other law enforcement institutions,
with an emphasis on investigative capacity, and has supported
efforts to reorganize the police in El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras, and Panama. Several other U. S. agencies are involved in
smaller rule of law activities in these countries. For example, in
Colombia, the Department of Justice's Overseas Prosecutorial
Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT)

program conducts activities for strengthening the Office of the
Prosecutor General and improving the capabilities of prosecutors
and other justice officials. Also, the U. S. Information Agency
has various educational programs such as exchanges between host
country judicial and law enforcement personnel and their U. S.
counterparts to increase the

awareness and knowledge of rule of law issues. The Department of
State has overall responsibility for coordinating U. S. rule of
law programs. It also funds training programs implemented by U. S.
law enforcement agencies and carries out some training programs,
mainly dealing with antiterrorism issues.

U. S. Assistance Has In the 1990s, U. S. rule of law assistance
has helped Colombia, El Salvador, Helped Countries

Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama undertake fundamental reforms as
they attempt to establish more effective criminal justice systems.
To varying Improve Their Justice degrees, the United States has
helped these five countries undertake legal

Systems and institutional judicial reforms, improve the
capabilities of the police and other law enforcement institutions,
and increase citizen access to the

justice system. U. S. Assistance Has Helped U. S. rule of law
assistance has helped the five countries in their attempts to
Countries Make Legal and substantially change their criminal
justice systems. The countries are at Institutional Reforms

different stages in reforming their criminal justice systems and
implementing these reforms.  In 1991, with USAID technical
assistance and support, Colombia revised its constitution and a
criminal code and began restructuring its judicial institutions
accordingly. USAID, ICITAP, and OPDAT assistance is focusing on
strengthening the capabilities of the courts, the Prosecutor
General's Office, the Public Defender's Office, and the
investigative units of various law enforcement organizations.
Also, USAID is supporting a pilot effort for demonstrating new
trial procedures in selected locations.  In El Salvador and
Guatemala, USAID supported the development of criminal codes that
were enacted in 1998 and 1994, respectively. When fully
implemented, the codes will make their criminal justice systems
more open and transparent. USAID and ICITAP are now providing

training and technical assistance to judges, prosecutors,
investigators, and public defenders and their respective
institutions to implement the necessary changes.  Similarly, in
Honduras, USAID supported the development of a new criminal code
that would help make its justice system more transparent.
Legislative action on the code was delayed in 1998 in the
aftermath of Hurricane Mitch but, according to U. S. officials,
passage is expected in 1999. USAID has also focused on
strengthening the Public Ministry by preparing prosecutors and
other court personnel for the changes expected with the passage of
the code. Honduran officials noted USAID

also helped establish a court Inspector General's Office, which
has worked to stem judicial corruption by conducting public
investigations of judges.

 In Panama, USAID and ICITAP helped restructure Panama's criminal
justice system in the early 1990s. Before the USAID rule of law
program was terminated in 1997, 4 it focused on training judicial
personnel, developing a merit- based career track for judges and
prosecutors, improving case management, supporting a judicial
school and the Public

Defender's office, and establishing legal libraries. ICITAP is
currently assisting efforts to strengthen the capabilities of
investigative units.

U. S. Assistance Has Primarily through the efforts of ICITAP, the
United States has enhanced the

Enhanced Police capabilities of police organizations in all
countries and assisted with the Capabilities and Helped the
transition to civilian authority in four of the five countries. In
all five Transition to Civilian

countries, reports of human rights abuses by police forces have
declined in recent years. In Colombia, however, the overall human
rights situation Authority continues to deteriorate due to ongoing
armed conflict among government forces, paramilitaries,
insurgents, and narcotraffickers.

 In Colombia, ICITAP has helped strengthen the investigative
capabilities of the police and other law enforcement organizations
through training, technical assistance, and other support for
investigative units, forensics laboratories, and other units.  In
El Salvador, the United States was the primary donor that
supported scaling back the military and transitioning to a
professional civilian police force, as required by the 1992 peace
agreement. ICITAP helped establish a new police academy, trained
academy officials in administration and management, provided
specialized training in

36 areas, and developed an instruction manual on the new criminal
procedures. ICITAP has also sought to enhance the police
investigative capacity through support for a new forensics
laboratory and special units for criminal and background
investigations.  In Guatemala, ICITAP assisted with the transition
to a civilian police

force in accordance with the 1996 peace agreement. While Spain is
the primary donor for police assistance in Guatemala, ICITAP is
complementing the Spanish effort by helping develop the police's
Criminal Investigative Service, Criminal Investigative School, and
forensics laboratory.

 In Honduras, ICITAP assisted with the transition of the police to
civilian rule through technical assistance and helped revise
academy curricula to include courses on professional
responsibility. ICITAP also supported 4 USAID terminated its
programs as part of an overall effort to reduce its overseas
presence.

improvements in the police's investigative capacity by providing
training and helping establish a crime laboratory.  In Panama,
ICITAP was instrumental in the development of a

civilian- run police force, following the abolishment of the
Panamanian Defense Force controlled by former dictator Manuel
Noriega in late 1989. More recently, ICITAP has shifted its focus
from institution building to more specialized training. It is
developing activities that are designed to sustain police reform,
such as establishing a career ladder for officers, providing
training for new instructors, and supporting a strategic planning
unit and an integrated management information system. U. S.
Assistance Has Helped In the five countries we visited, U. S.
assistance has helped improve access Improve Citizen Access to to
the justice system for the poor and marginalized populations. U.
S. the Justice System

officials are also helping create and sustain grassroots support
for justice system reforms.  In Colombia, USAID has supported
eight Houses of Justice that provide judicial services to low-
income individuals. At these centers, citizens can seek
alternative dispute resolution or have direct access to judges,
prosecutors, public defenders, and the police. Colombia, with the
support of USAID, plans to expand the program.

 In El Salvador, USAID provided support for hiring additional
judges, prosecutors, and public defenders throughout the country.
In 1999, USAID is focusing on both institution building and
improving access for rural populations. ICITAP developed a pilot
911 emergency call system in Santa Ana that lowered the crime rate
in the area and increased community confidence in the police.
Plans are underway to replicate the program nationwide. ICITAP is
also developing a program for community policing.  In Guatemala,
USAID helped create two pilot justice centers in rural areas to
improve access to judicial services and test innovations in case

administration and referrals for alternative dispute resolution. A
team approach to the delivery of justice services brings together
the police officer, investigator, prosecutor, and judge. As a
result of the centers' popularity, the Guatemalan government plans
to expand the centers to other locations with the support of USAID
and other international donors.

 In Honduras, USAID has funded activities to build support for
judicial reform among the general public and civil society groups.
USAID

provided small grants to nongovernmental organizations that are
active in police reform and are supporting passage of a new
criminal code.  In Panama, USAID funded public training through a
nongovernmental organization on how to obtain access to the
criminal justice system. A USAID activity under consideration
includes funding civil society

groups to generate demand for legal reforms. Host government
officials, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and
other international donor officials generally noted that U. S.
assistance has been key in promoting legal and institutional
reform, improving the capabilities of the criminal justice system,
and increasing the

access of the population to justice. In addition to program aid,
they said the U. S. presence has helped identify targets of
opportunity and bring international attention to rule of law
issues. Further Reform Faces

Governments have partially implemented justice system reform in
each of Various Constraints the countries we visited. While the
previously described reform efforts are steps toward improving
criminal justice systems, these governments face and Requires
Sustained

numerous challenges and constraints in making further reforms,
such as Commitment securing the resources needed to fully
implement the reforms in the face of limited government budgets,
varying commitment to the reforms, and high levels of crime.  In
Colombia, the ongoing armed conflicts and high levels of crime
strain the resources of the government. The government has only
partially implemented its reform of the criminal justice system
and is unable to implement the reform in the territory that is
under the control of insurgency groups, paramilitaries, and
narcotraffickers.

 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are among the poorest
countries in the Western Hemisphere and lack the human and
financial resources necessary to sustain the pace of their reform
efforts without external assistance. According to USAID and host
country officials, reform efforts in these three countries have to
take into account large segments of the rural population, which
are isolated and lack access to basic

government services. In Guatemala, this task is further
complicated by the presence of a large rural indigenous population
with its own languages and cultural traditions.

As we reported in 1993, 5 implementing justice sector reforms over
the long term depends largely on sustained commitment from the
host country governments, their civil societies, and the
international donor community. In the countries we visited, the
pace of reform was largely affected by the host government's
commitment to making the necessary changes.  In 1991, Colombia
revised its constitution to allow the restructuring

necessary for an independent justice system. However,
implementation of these reforms has taken time due to the need to
create and strengthen various justice sector institutions and the
lack of commitment to do so.  Although USAID began providing rule
of law support to El Salvador and Guatemala in the mid- 1980s, the
enactment of justice system reforms did not occur until the 1990s.
Their peace accords, signed in 1992 and 1996, respectively,
represented turning points in the countries' commitment to
enacting and implementing reforms. However, changing the criminal
justice systems has taken time. In El Salvador, criminal

code revisions needed to implement new judicial proceedings did
not become effective until April 1998 6 years after the peace
accord was signed. Although Guatemala revised its criminal codes
in 1994, the implementation of changes was not carried out until
the peace accord was signed and hostilities permanently ceased 2
years later.  After USAID stopped disbursing funds in 1997, the
Panamanian government curtailed efforts to train justice sector
personnel and automate record management systems.

Additionally, according to State, USAID, ICITAP, and OPDAT
officials, these countries have legacies that work against the
implementation of justice system reforms. Violence, widespread
crime, and an overall disregard for the law are common in
Colombia, El Salvador, and Guatemala due in part to their long
armed conflicts. The lack of transparency and resources in their
justice systems has fostered corruption in all five countries to
some extent. In each of the countries we visited, host country
government and civil society representatives noted that the
presence of the international

community particularly the United States was needed, not only for
the resources it provides, but also to help encourage government
officials to devote the necessary resources to enact, implement,
and sustain needed reforms. They also emphasized that lasting
reform of criminal justice

5 Foreign Assistance: Promoting Judicial Reform to Strengthen
Democracies (GAO/NSIAD-93-149, Sept. 1, 1993).

systems is a long- term effort that requires a sustained host
government commitment. U. S. Missions Plan and In each of the five
countries we visited, the ambassadors and senior U. S. agency
officials had established procedures for planning and coordinating
Coordinate Rule of U. S. rule of law programs and activities. As
we reported in 1993, 6 strong, Law Assistance top- level U. S.
support at the country level was needed to implement rule of law
programs successfully. This support appeared to be present in the
five countries we visited. We also noted that the heads of the
agencies providing rule of law assistance had good working
relationships with one another and, based on our review of
relevant documentation, we found no instances of duplication of
activities and efforts among the U. S. agencies. The missions
coordinated assistance with counterparts in each of the five host
countries and with other international donors. U. S., host
country, and

other international donor officials told us that this coordination
had been successful. Planning Among U. S. The primary tool for
linking the overall rule of law goals and objectives Agencies

among the agencies operating in- country is the Mission
Performance Plan (MPP). MPPs lay out the goals and objectives that
the mission will pursue over the next 2 years within the framework
of the State Department's International Affairs Strategic Plan.
Because several departments and agencies are represented in U. S.
missions abroad, MPPs are developed through interagency reviews
and in consultation with each agency's Washington, D. C.,
headquarters. Each U. S. agency has its own planning processes and
documents, which essentially are an extension of the MPP and fill
in many of the details of the overall program. For example, USAID,
ICITAP, and OPDAT have plans describing their rule of law
programs' goals, objectives, funding, activities, performance
indicators, and benchmarks. According to U. S. officials, these
planning processes and related documents enable the missions, in
conjunction with Washington, to establish the goals and objectives
of rule of law programs and activities; ascertain the progress
made toward achieving their goals and objectives; and identify
both problems and solutions concerning these programs and 6
Foreign Assistance: Promoting Judicial Reform to Strengthen
Democracies.

activities. Also, these processes play a key role in the U. S.
agencies' efforts to coordinate the rule of law- related training,
technical assistance, and equipment support provided by the
agencies and their contractors to recipient institutions. For
example, U. S. officials in El Salvador stated that the rigorous
examination of the mission's programs and activities conducted
during the 1998 MPP process enabled it to clearly identify the
objectives to pursue. They also noted that these objectives were
reflected in each agency's objectives and activities.  One MPP
objective in El Salvador stated that the United States would
assist the implementation of justice system reform by supporting
efforts to improve institutional capacity. The MPP's performance
indicator to measure progress toward achieving this objective is
the reduction in case- processing time for criminal cases. One of
USAID's objectives emphasized supporting efforts to establish more
inclusive and effective

democratic processes. One indicator for measuring progress toward
achieving this objective is the status of legal/ judicial reforms.
Based on this indicator, USAID noted that El Salvador has made
much progress in passing justice system reforms because most
enabling legislation for the legal and structural reforms to the
justice system has been enacted. It also stated that in those
areas where implementation of the reforms has begun, case filings
increased and case processing improved the latter closely matching
the MPP's performance indicator.  Another MPP objective in El
Salvador emphasized supporting efforts to improve the civilian
National Police Criminal Investigative Division. One

of ICITAP's objectives was to assist with developing the
Division's ability to conduct professional and effective criminal
investigations. Some of the benchmarks used to measure progress
toward achieving this objective included publishing an
investigative procedures manual, identifying weak points in
investigation practices, establishing working groups of
prosecutors and investigators to agree on coordination mechanisms,
and creating a continuing education program for Division staff.
Based on these benchmarks, ICITAP noted that El Salvador had made
progress in training investigators on the requirements of the
reformed criminal justice system. U. S. officials in Colombia also
stated that the MPP and U. S. agency planning processes
complemented each other and helped agencies in planning and
coordinating rule of law assistance. Specifically, one MPP
objective in Colombia emphasized that the United States would
continue to

support reform efforts to make the criminal justice system less
cumbersome by providing assistance, for example, to train judges,
prosecutors, and investigators. In turn, USAID, ICITAP, and OPDAT
planning documents contained objectives and indicators aimed at
improving the effectiveness of the justice system. One USAID
performance indicator emphasized the adoption of a single training
curriculum for investigators by the three main law enforcement
academies. ICITAP's related benchmarks also emphasized that these
academies adopt this common investigative training curriculum and
that all investigators receive

training on the requirements of the reformed system. In- country
Coordination U. S. missions had country teams and rule of law and
law enforcement Among U. S. Agencies

teams that met regularly to discuss coordination issues concerning
agencies' programs and activities. Country teams included
representatives from all the U. S. agencies with a country
presence and were chaired by the Ambassador. These teams met
weekly to discuss issues regarding all of the agencies' programs
and activities, including rule of law assistance. Rule of law and
law enforcement teams were comprised of representatives from all
the U. S. agencies supporting rule of law efforts in- country and
were normally chaired by the Ambassador or Deputy Chief of
Mission. These teams met at least once a month. In Colombia, the
heads of USAID, ICITAP, and OPDAT met every week to address
management and coordination issues.

U. S. officials in the five countries we visited told us that the
coordination of rule of law assistance worked well. During our
visit we observed that the heads of the agencies implementing most
of the rule of law assistance had good working relationships. In
addition, in reviewing pertinent agency documents, we identified
no instances of duplication of rule of law activities and efforts
or other conflicts among the agencies. Coordination With the Host
In all the countries we visited, the United States coordinated its
rule of law Country and Other Donors

assistance with host country counterparts. U. S. and host country
officials agreed these efforts had addressed rule of law
assistance- related issues and had averted any major problems.
Coordination with other international donors was less formal, and
most other donors' programs were relatively new. Nevertheless, U.
S. and other donor representatives for example, the Inter-
American Development Bank, the World Bank, and Spain said they

were aware of each other's programs and activities and had planned
their efforts accordingly.  In Colombia, under a grant agreement
signed by the United States and the Colombian government, an
executive committee comprised of the U. S. Ambassador, the head of
USAID, and high- level Colombian counterparts from the justice
sector coordinate the U. S. rule of law assistance. This group
meets at least once a year; it last met in December 1998. Under a
complementary grant agreement signed by the

United States and the Colombian Prosecutor General's Office, this
office coordinated all the rule of law assistance that it received
from international donors.  In El Salvador and Guatemala, the
missions coordinated their rule of law assistance with justice
sector coordinating commissions comprised of the heads of most of
the host country's criminal justice system

institutions. These commissions also were charged with developing
overall strategic plans for the justice system and coordinating
international assistance to the system's institutions.  In
Honduras, coordination was done through counterparts at each of
the

justice sector entities. Although USAID has encouraged the
government to create a donor coordination position within the
judicial branch, Honduras has not acted on this recommendation.
Conclusions U. S. rule of law assistance has helped these
countries undertake criminal justice system reforms. These reforms
involve a long- term effort that requires sustained host
government commitment. The countries we visited face numerous
challenges and constraints in making further criminal justice
system reforms; primarily, resources are limited and the
governments' commitment to reform varies. Additionally, violence,
widespread crime, and an overall disregard for the law are common
in Colombia, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Host country government
officials and civil society representatives noted that the
presence of the

international community particularly the United States was needed
to help encourage government officials to devote the necessary
resources to enact, implement, and sustain needed reforms. Scope
and

We reviewed U. S. rule of law assistance programs in five
countries Methodology

Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. These
countries were selected based on congressional interest and the
size,

breadth, and history of their programs. We primarily focused on U.
S. assistance efforts during the 1990s. We traveled to El Salvador
and Guatemala in July 1998 and to Colombia, Honduras, and Panama
in September and October 1998. We updated the status of the
programs in May and June 1999 through contacts with cognizant
officials in the U. S. missions. To determine what U. S. rule of
law assistance has achieved and any factors impeding
implementation of criminal justice reforms, we interviewed
cognizant officials, met with nongovernmental interest groups, and
analyzed program documentation in Washington, D. C., and the
respective countries. In each country, we also visited project
sites and met with host country officials. Specifically, we did
the following:  In Washington, D. C., we interviewed headquarters'
officials at the

departments and agencies with rule of law programs in these
countries, including the Departments of State and Justice, USAID,
and the U. S. Information Agency (USIA). We also met with
nongovernmental organizations and individuals with expertise in
Latin American criminal justice system reforms. For each country,
we reviewed Mission Performance Plans; USAID country planning
documents; ICITAP country work plans; and other reporting
documents, funding agreements, contracts, and project evaluations.
From our analysis, we determined how U. S. rule of law program
objectives, desired outcomes, and performance indicators were
linked within each agency and among

all U. S. programs in country and how agencies used this
information to manage their rule of law programs. We also reviewed
State human rights reports for each country and our prior reports
on judicial reform in Latin America. 7  In each country, we met
with the Ambassador, 8 the Deputy Chief of Mission, senior U. S.
officials representing agencies with rule of law programs in each
country, and numerous program staff. We interviewed host country
officials at the supreme courts and judicial councils; 7 See
Foreign Assistance: Promoting Judicial Reform to Strengthen
Democracies; Foreign Assistance:

Meeting the Training Needs of Police in New Democracies
(GAO/NSIAD-93-109, Jan. 21, 1993); Foreign Assistance: Promising
Approach to Judicial Reform in Colombia (GAO/NSIAD-92-269, Sept.
24, 1992); Aid to El Salvador: Slow Progress in Developing a
National Civilian Police (GAO/NSIAD-92-338, Sept. 22, 1992); Aid
to Panama: Improving the Criminal Justice System (GAO/NSIAD-92-
147, May 12, 1992); Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance
(GAO/NSIAD-92-118, Mar. 5, 1992); and Foreign Aid: Efforts to
Improve the Judicial System in El Salvador (GAO/NSIAD-90-81, May
29, 1990). 8 The U. S. Ambassador to Colombia was traveling during
our visit.

prosecutor and public defender offices; justice, foreign affairs,
and public security ministries; law enforcement organizations; and
justice system coordinating bodies. We visited training schools
for judges and prosecutors, law schools, police academies,
forensics laboratories, antinarcotics units, and several pilot
projects. We met with representatives of other international
donors with rule of law programs, such as the Inter- American
Development Bank, the World Bank, the

United Nations Development Programme, and Spain. Finally, we met
with numerous representatives from nongovernmental organizations
and other groups representing a broad spectrum of civil society.
For example, in El Salvador we discussed the challenges facing the
police and judicial institutions with representatives from the
Washington Office on Latin America. In Guatemala, we discussed
progress toward implementing the peace accords with officials from
the United Nations Verification Mission, and we held discussions
with panels of civil society

representatives. To determine how the United States plans and
coordinates its rule of law assistance in each country, we
reviewed the most recent rule of law program and project plans and
discussed with U. S. officials their management processes and the
operations of the missions' working groups. We also interviewed
host country officials and other international donors to determine
how they coordinated their rule of law programs and how they
viewed U. S. and other donors' coordination efforts. We performed
our work from June 1998 to June 1999 in accordance with generally
accepted government auditing standards.

Agency Comments We requested comments on a draft of this report
from the Departments of State and Justice, USAID, and USIA. USAID
provided written comments (see app. VI). State, Justice, and USIA
provided oral comments. State also provided technical comments,
which we incorporated as appropriate. Overall, the comments
characterized the report as fair, balanced, and informative.
Unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no
further distribution of this report until 30 days after its issue
date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to the
Honorable Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of State; the Honorable
Janet Reno, Attorney General; the Honorable Harriet C. Babbitt,
Acting Administrator of USAID; the

Honorable Penn Kemble, Acting Director, USIA; and interested
congressional committees. We will make copies available to others
upon request. Please contact me at (202) 512- 4128 if you or your
staff have any questions about this report. Other GAO contacts and
staff acknowledgments are listed in appendix VII.

Benjamin F. Nelson Director, International Relations and

Trade Issues

List of Congressional Requesters The Honorable Mike DeWine The
Honorable Jesse A. Helms The Honorable Joseph R. Biden The
Honorable John Breaux The Honorable Paul Coverdell The Honorable
Bob Graham The Honorable Charles E. Grassley The Honorable Orrin
G. Hatch The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy United States Senate

The Honorable Benjamin A. Gilman The Honorable Porter J. Goss The
Honorable Bill McCollum The Honorable E. Clay Shaw House of
Representatives

Letter 1 Appendix I

20 U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Colombia

Appendix II 24

U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to El Salvador Appendix III

28 U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Guatemala

Appendix IV 31

U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Honduras Appendix V

35 U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Panama

Appendix VI 39

Comments From USAID

Appendix VII 41

GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments

Abbreviations

ICITAP International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance
Program JSRP Justice Sector Reform Program MPP Mission Performance
Plan OPDAT Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and
Training USAID U. S. Agency for International Development

USIA U. S. Information Agency

Appendi I x U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Colombia Although
Colombia is one of the oldest democracies in Latin America,
violence has plagued that country for the last several decades.
Colombia has one of the highest levels of crime and is the largest
exporter of illegal drugs in the region. Colombia is fighting not
only insurgents and paramilitaries but also common criminals and
drug producers and traffickers. To combat these groups, Colombia
has used its military and criminal justice system including
judicial institutions and the police and other law enforcement
groups. However, according to U. S. officials, the criminal
justice system is weak and largely ineffective in this fight. In
1991, after amending its constitution and revising a criminal
code, Colombia began a major effort to reform its criminal justice
institutions. Colombia's reform aimed to improve the criminal
justice system by, among other things, establishing,
restructuring, and strengthening justice institutions as well as
by enhancing criminal investigations, prosecutions, and trials.
Colombia has not fully implemented many of these changes, and
serious problems continue to affect its criminal justice system.
According to the State Department, these problems include
arbitrary arrests; lengthy

pretrial detentions; large case backlogs; intimidation, suborning,
and corruption of justice officials; and avoidance of punishment
by large numbers of wrongdoers. In 1998, for example, less than 3
percent of all reported crimes were successfully prosecuted. U. S.
rule of law assistance is designed to help Colombia implement its
criminal justice system reform and, eventually, address these
problems.

U. S. Rule of Law To help Colombia implement its 1991 reforms, the
U. S. Agency for Assistance and Related

International Development (USAID) and the Department of Justice's
International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program
(ICITAP) Results

and Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training
(OPDAT) groups have implemented the Justice Sector Reform Program
(JSRP). JSRP has focused on training justice sector officials,
improving Colombian police investigative capabilities, and
increasing citizen access to justice. Under JSRP, USAID has
provided $28.5 million, ICITAP over

$7 million, and OPDAT over $3.5 million since 1991. USAID Under
JSRP, USAID has supported over 50 projects to enhance the

capabilities of justice system institutions, including Colombia's
court system, Ministry of Justice, Prosecutor General's Office,
Public Defender's Office, and Superior Judicial Council. USAID
helped implement information systems within the Prosecutor
General's Office and the Public

Defender's Office; strengthened the Superior Judicial Council's
Judicial School; and established training programs for judges,
prosecutors, and public defenders. During our visits to the
Prosecutor General's Office and the Public Defender's Office, we
toured their information management facilities supported by USAID
projects. Justice officials told us that these

projects had been critical to secure the hardware and develop the
specialized software needed to process most of the information
required by prosecutors and public defenders. USAID also supported
the creation of 13 alternative dispute resolution centers and 8
Houses of Justice as a means for improving citizen access to
justice. The Houses of Justice are intended to provide a variety
of justice- related services to people in lower- income areas. For
example, in the Houses, citizens have access to alternative
dispute resolution mechanisms such as conciliation and mediation
and representatives from judicial and law enforcement
organizations. During our visit to the

House of Justice in Ciudad Bolivar, we toured several units that
provided justice services to low- income persons, and justice
officials praised the contribution made by the USAID assistance to
the establishment and operation of this House of Justice. In
addition, USAID- funded Colombian nongovernmental organizations
have conducted public awareness and education programs for the
population to gain better access to justice.

USAID is currently focusing its rule of law assistance in three
areas. First, USAID and the Superior Judicial Council are working
to strengthen judicial training, improve the conduct of trials,
and establish the pertinent trial facilities. Second, USAID and
the Public Defender's Office are training public defenders,
developing a national training plan for public defenders, and
further strengthening information management capabilities. Third,
USAID is helping to establish additional Houses of Justice and
supporting nongovernmental organizations' public awareness and
education programs focusing on justice issues.

ICITAP ICITAP has focused on strengthening the investigative
capabilities of law enforcement institutions. Under JSRP, ICITAP
has helped train investigators from the National Police's
investigative unit, the Administrative Department of Security's
investigative unit, and the Prosecutor General's Technical Corps
of Investigations. Each agency has focused on training a core
group that, in turn, instructs other investigators. In 1996 and
1997, ICITAP supported training in investigative techniques for

3,500 investigators about half of the investigators in these three

Colombian investigative organizations. ICITAP helped develop
police manuals, investigative techniques, and crime scene
processing capabilities. Currently, ICITAP is assisting further
efforts to train investigators and supporting the development of a
common curriculum for all investigators. ICITAP is also promoting
the idea of having a unified school for training all
investigators, rather than having three separate schools. During
our visit to the Prosecutor General's Office, the Prosecutor
General and another

high- ranking official told us that they would support the effort
to create a unified school for investigators. ICITAP, in
conjunction with OPDAT, has worked on establishing local and
national special units of prosecutors and investigators to
demonstrate how these justice officials would work together using
reformed investigations and prosecution proceedings. OPDAT OPDAT
has focused on strengthening the capabilities of the Prosecutor

General's Office. Under JSRP, OPDAT has helped develop and
implement a national training plan for prosecutors and judges. The
plan concentrates on training these justice officials on the
changes introduced by the 1991 justice

system reform. OPDAT also funded training for 2,500 prosecutors
and 800 judges. Moreover, OPDAT, in conjunction with ICITAP, has
helped establish several

local and national special units in which prosecutors and
investigators work together to solve specific types of crimes. For
example, OPDAT is helping establish and institutionalize four
national special units concentrating on money laundering and asset
forfeitures, narcotrafficking, anticorruption, and human rights
abuses. Prosecutors and investigators who worked in the local
special units have played a key role in supporting the creation of
the national special units, according to U. S. officials. Based on
the lessons learned in the local special units, OPDAT is
supporting the development of a manual for prosecutors. According
to U. S. officials, this document, which is scheduled for release
in 1999, will be an important tool for implementing throughout the
country the concept of prosecutors directing investigations and
prosecutions using reformed proceedings. Remaining Challenges
Colombia has not fully implemented its 1991 criminal justice
system

reforms. Despite the training, technical assistance, and other
support provided to judges, prosecutors, investigators, public
defenders, and their institutions, few justice officials are
following the new procedures for conducting investigations and
prosecutions. In addition, Colombia has not put in place the new
trial procedures and facilities that are expected to

expedite the trial of criminal cases. Consequently, Colombia's
criminal justice system is still overburdened by ineffective
investigations, prosecutions, and trials, resulting in large case
backlogs and in large

numbers of wrongdoers going unpunished. For example, according to
Colombian sources, the justice system had over 3.5 million cases
pending at the end of 1997. The Prosecutor General's Office had
about 700,000 and the courts about 2.9 million cases pending.
Also, according to these same sources, at least 8,123 murders had
occurred as of April 1998, and 74 percent of these remained
unsolved. Further advances will require securing support for
recent reform

initiatives, obtaining the resources needed to carry out the
reform, completing the training of justice officials, and
implementing the necessary changes throughout the country. The
Superior Judicial Council has to issue regulations for conducting
reformed trials and has to ensure that the related infrastructure,
processes, procedures, and equipment are in place

to test, through pilot programs, the new trial proceedings. It
also must see that they are carried out across the nation. USAID
estimates that the nationwide implementation of these new trial
proceedings may take from 3 to 5 years. Although Council members
state that their institution has legal authority to proceed with
the implementation of new trial procedures and plans to issue the
pertinent regulations during 1999, they acknowledged that the
authority and regulations could be questioned in the courts.

Colombia's continuing armed conflict; narcotrafficking; high crime
levels; and intimidation, suborning, and corruption of justice
officials complicate the reform efforts of the Superior Judicial
Council, the Prosecutor General's Office, and other criminal
justice system institutions. According to the State Department,
judges have long been subject to threats and intimidation,
particularly when dealing with cases involving the military,
paramilitary, narcotics, and guerrilla organizations, and these
and other

justice officials continue to be subjected to threats, suborning,
corruption, and acts of violence. According to U. S. officials,
all of the problems put pressure on the government's budget,
overwhelm the resources and capabilities of judicial and law
enforcement institutions, and undermine public confidence in a
criminal justice system that still does not work well and does not
provide citizens with widespread access to justice.

Appe ndi I I x U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to El Salvador During
the 1980s, El Salvador was immersed in a violent civil conflict
that claimed more than 75, 000 lives. U. S. assistance for El
Salvador's criminal justice institutions began in 1984 in response
to congressional concerns over human rights abuses particularly
the politically motivated murders of U. S. citizens and the lack
of response by the Salvadoran authorities. Very few of these cases
were investigated and prosecuted. In 1991, interim peace
negotiations led to a constitutional reform that sought to
professionalize the judicial branch. Among the key changes were
the allocation of 6 percent of the national budget for the
Judicial Branch and other provisions to make the Supreme Court
more independent. These negotiations also strengthened the mandate
and independence of the National Council on the Judiciary, which
was created in 1989 and currently manages the court system and
recommends candidates for judicial appointments. In January 1992,
representatives from the Salvadoran government and the Farabundo
Marti National Liberation Front signed a peace agreement ending
the 12- year armed conflict. The accord aimed to secure peace and
to democratize Salvadoran society through greater political
pluralism and major legal and institutional reforms. For instance,
it mandated replacing national military police with a police force
under civilian control. After the peace agreement was signed,
international donors, including the United States, committed
significant resources for reforming El Salvador's government,
including its judicial and law enforcement organizations.

U. S. Rule of Law Since 1992, the United States has provided about
$54 million in rule of law Assistance and Related assistance to El
Salvador. USAID provided about $18 million in assistance and
ICITAP about $36 million.

Results USAID USAID's rule of law program in El Salvador is
currently supporting efforts

to implement the new criminal codes, which became effective in
1998, and strengthen criminal justice system planning and
coordination. USAID's program provides training, technical
assistance, and other support to improve the skills of judges,
prosecutors, and public defenders and their institutions. In
addition, USAID seeks to increase citizen access to and confidence
in the justice system by supporting alternative dispute resolution
initiatives and increasing citizens' knowledge of the justice
system.

USAID has helped the Salvadoran government improve the criminal
justice system, enhance judicial independence and professionalism,
and further institutional coordination and planning. USAID
assisted the Salvadoran government's efforts to revise its
criminal, juvenile, and family codes and helped develop three
operating manuals for implementing these codes. 1 USAID also
reports that 68, 000 backlogged cases have been resolved,

14 new prosecutor offices have opened, and the number and salaries
of prosecutors and public defenders have increased. USAID
assistance has helped enhance judicial independence and
professionalism through its efforts to aid the government in
restructuring the Supreme Court, improve the judicial training
school, enact a judicial career law, and conduct annual
independent evaluations of judges. The Office of the Human Rights
Ombudsman was also created with donor assistance. USAID has helped
improve coordination and planning within the justice system by
providing assistance to establish and strengthen a Justice Sector
Coordinating Commission. The commission is composed of the heads
of most criminal justice institutions, and USAID assists this
organization's technical secretariat in developing and
implementing a comprehensive 5- year plan. During our meeting with
the members of this commission, they emphasized that the U. S.
rule of law assistance had been critical to their reform efforts
both individually and collectively. For example, the Chief Justice
noted that USAID projects had been key to enhancing the judicial
career path and the capabilities of the Judicial School and the
National Council on the Judiciary. More importantly, he noted that
USAID projects had helped him and other heads of criminal justice
institutions understand

that they would need to work together to implement the reform
successfully. The Prosecutor General and the Public Defender made
similar statements about the contribution of the USAID projects to
the reform efforts within and between criminal justice
institutions. USAID also reported that, as a result of the reform,
cases in family courts have

increased by 85 percent; 4,500 civil society individuals have been
trained in the new laws; and citizen confidence that the justice
system can provide a fair trial increased from 30 percent in 1995
to 45 percent in 1997, as measured by public opinion polls.
Consistent with its efforts to strengthen justice system
institutions, USAID

plans to continue its support for the Justice Sector Coordinating
1 El Salvador revised its criminal procedures code in December
1996 and its criminal and penitentiary (sentencing) codes in April
1997. All of the codes became effective in April 1998.

Commission and its technical secretariat. The agency is focusing
on strengthening these organizations' capabilities to identify and
respond to problems arising from the implementation of the
recently passed reforms and effectively coordinate donor
assistance to the justice system. Other areas supported by USAID's
current program include (1) funding popular legal education, (2)
financing on- the- job training for prosecutors to equip them with
the new skills needed to implement the reforms, (3) providing
equipment to increase the geographic coverage of prosecutors and
public defenders, (4) expanding the use of conciliation and
mediation to avoid court congestion, and (5) improving
transparency by strengthening the

capability of justice institutions to provide reliable information
to the public and the media.

ICITAP ICITAP objectives for El Salvador have centered on
improving the capabilities of the police academy and the Civilian
National Police. ICITAP has primarily provided training and
technical assistance to these police

organizations, although it has also provided equipment and
supplies. At the police academy, ICITAP supported both basic and
specialized training, with the goal of strengthening the overall
capabilities of the police. With ICITAP support, the academy
trained nearly 19, 000 police personnel. ICITAP estimates that
about 1,600 of these were from the former security apparatus who
were vetted and incorporated into the new force. ICITAP also
funded management training for the leaders of the academy to make
this institution sustainable. In addition, ICITAP supported
training on the requirements of the new criminal codes and helped
to develop an instruction manual. In our visit to the police
academy, the head of the academy emphasized that the U. S. rule of
law assistance had been critical to establish and operate the
academy. Within the Civilian National Police, ICITAP has sought to
institutionalize

administrative and operational changes so that this organization
will be capable of guaranteeing public security while respecting
internationally recognized human rights. For example, ICITAP
funded specialized police training in 36 different areas to
supplement the basic training provided by the academy,  helped
develop the Police Operations Department and trained its personnel
in police intervention, and

 helped to develop new criminal and background investigation
units.

ICITAP also assisted the police in establishing a crime laboratory
and trained crime scene investigators in proper evidence-
gathering techniques. During our visit to the laboratory, we noted
that it provided basic forensic services, but little else.
Laboratory officials told us that they needed additional resources
to update the laboratory capabilities. Also, ICITAP supported the
development and implementation of a 911- pilot program in the
Santa Ana area. According to Santa Ana police officials with whom
we met and ICITAP reports, this pilot program has helped lower
crime rates and increase citizen confidence in the police. The
Public Security Ministry plans to replicate this program
nationwide.

Remaining Challenges Despite efforts to restructure and strengthen
judicial and law enforcement institutions since 1992, El Salvador
only recently began implementing its new criminal codes to improve
criminal investigations, prosecutions, and trials as well as
training justice officials on the requirements imposed on the
criminal justice system by these codes. El Salvador's criminal
justice system still experiences serious problems, including
arbitrary arrests, lengthy pretrial detentions, inefficiency, and
corruption. Although the Salvadoran government has taken steps to
discipline judicial and law enforcement officials guilty of abuse
and corruption, problems remain, and less than half of Salvadoran
citizens have confidence in the capabilities of the justice system
to ensure a fair trial.

U. S. officials emphasized that El Salvador's commitment to
criminal justice reform is encouraging and that judicial and law
enforcement institutions are working to implement the reform
fully. However, reform

implementation still faces many challenges. El Salvador's limited
criminal justice system infrastructure and capabilities,
corruption of justice officials, and high levels of crime in part
associated with a legacy of violence inherited from the 12- year
civil war complicate the reform

efforts of judicial and law enforcement institutions. For example,
according to the Chief Justice, the court system lacks adequate
infrastructure and equipment including computer hardware and
software and most judges and other court personnel need training
to improve their skills and capabilities for working in the
reformed system. Also, according to U. S. officials, the high
levels of crime overwhelm the

resources and capabilities of criminal justice institutions and
further undermine public confidence in a criminal justice system
that still is ineffective and provides limited access to justice.

Appendi I I I x U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Guatemala From
1960 to 1996, Guatemala was plagued by an internal armed conflict
between leftist insurgents and government forces that claimed
about 150,000 lives and displaced about a million people.
Political violence, widespread human rights abuse, and lack of due
process were the norm during the conflict. After working to
improve its criminal justice system for several years, in 1992
Guatemala enacted legislation designed to modernize its criminal
code. The new code became effective in 1994. In December 1996, the
warring factions signed a peace agreement. The peace accord
provided the impetus for an increase in assistance from
international

donors for, among other things, further reforming judicial
institutions and developing a civilian police force.

U. S. Rule of Law Since 1993, U. S. rule of law assistance for
improving the Guatemalan Assistance and Related criminal justice
system has totaled almost $17 million. USAID and ICITAP have
provided most of this assistance, with more than $10 million and
Results

almost $7 million, respectively. USAID In recent years, USAID has
focused on supporting efforts to implement the

peace accord and the new criminal code. USAID's objectives also
included improving public access to justice outside the capital
city. 1 USAID is transitioning from a $5. 7- million criminal
justice reform program that began in 1993 the Judicial Sector
Reform Support Project to a new, $10- million reform program that
will run from 1999 to 2002. USAID provided additional funds for
related justice sector activities, including a 1- year extension
of the first project and grants to the U. N. Mission in Guatemala,
bringing the total amount of the USAID program to more than $10
million from 1993 to 1998. The focus of the first justice reform
project was to strengthen principal justice sector institutions so
they could support

implementation of the new criminal code. The revised code aimed to
strengthen criminal investigations, prosecutions, and trial
procedures. The program included support to judges and other court
officials, prosecutors, investigators, public defenders, private
sector attorneys, and law schools. The project also included
management assistance to the school for judges and the school for
prosecutors as well as two pilot justice centers.

1 In 1997, Guatemala had a population of 10. 5 million people.
About half were considered indigenous and many lived in remote
areas with limited infrastructure and access to government
services. More than 80 percent of the indigenous population are
considered extremely poor.

USAID played a key role in supporting the development and
implementation of the revised code. The agency also was a primary
factor in helping establish judicial institutions, such as the
Public Defender's Office and the Justice Sector Coordinating
Commission. USAID's support included technical assistance,
training, and the production of legal materials. Judges,
prosecutors, and public defenders in Guatemala have been trained
in the requirements of the revised criminal code through the USAID
program. USAID is also supporting revisions to the curriculum of
the only public law school in Guatemala to make it consistent with
the

reformed criminal justice system. Course materials on trial
practice and advocacy are being produced in collaboration with
another university. USAID officials also noted the agency's
assistance in decentralizing the prosecutor's office and improving
its investigative and prosecutorial capabilities. For example,
with USAID's technical assistance, Guatemala designed and
implemented a new case management system for prosecutors. USAID
efforts have also helped develop policy guidelines and
standardized case reporting forms for coordinating the work of
prosecutors and police investigators. USAID supported the
establishment of two pilot justice centers in Quetzaltenango and
Zacapa. These centers were designed to improve

access to justice sector services through the use of alternative
dispute resolution mechanisms. Among other advances, the two
centers have installed modern docket and case filing systems to
provide more efficient services to the public. The centers promote
a team approach to legal

problem- solving by bringing together judicial and law enforcement
officials, including judges, prosecutors, investigators, and other
police officers. In our visit to the Zacapa center, a judge told
us the centers provide a unique service and make justice available
to the average citizen in the area. Due to the success of the two
pilot centers, the government plans to replicate these pilots at
the national level with donor assistance.

ICITAP While the Spanish Civil Guard has the primary
responsibility for training police recruits, ICITAP is providing
about $3 million per year in rule of law assistance to complement
the Spanish effort. ICITAP has helped with efforts to restructure
and professionalize the police's Criminal Investigative Service by
providing training, technical assistance, and other support.
ICITAP also is supporting the Criminal Investigative School, the
forensics laboratory, the Special Cases Unit for investigating
high- profile cases, and the Background Investigation Unit for
screening police recruits. Other

ICITAP assistance has involved efforts to automate case management
and strengthen the Office of Professional Responsibility. In 1997,
ICITAP trained almost 700 members of the police in basic,
intermediate, and advanced criminal investigation techniques.
ICITAP supplied the justice centers with equipment to enable the
police to communicate directly with prosecutors. ICITAP also
trained 120 judges and prosecutors from high crime areas in
investigations and crime scene procedure and is working with
prosecutors and investigators to develop an investigation manual.
In addition, ICITAP donated computer equipment to the police and
provided computer training to facilitate case management,
tracking, and file reviews. This has allowed the police's Criminal
Investigative Service access to previously unavailable databases,
such as those containing information on passports, criminal
histories, stolen vehicles, and drivers' licenses. ICITAP also
provided key equipment, such as microscopes and cameras, to the
forensics laboratory, as well as related training.

Remaining Challenges Guatemala is still implementing its reform of
the criminal justice system. Guatemala has not fully put in place
the new criminal codes aimed at enhancing criminal investigations,
prosecutions, and trials. Moreover, the criminal justice system is
plagued by serious problems, including arbitrary arrests, lengthy
pretrial detention, inefficiency, and corruption among judicial
and law enforcement officials. The justice system also fails to
capture large numbers of wrongdoers. Due to the strong public
concern about the high crime rate, the government is relying on
the military to assist the new police force in patrolling rural
areas. The recent rejection in a national referendum of some of
the changes needed to implement the peace accord presents a major
challenge to sustaining the commitment to criminal justice reform.
Also, as USAID has pointed out, the government's funding for
critical social services, such as the justice system, remains
inadequate. Reform efforts in the justice system

are further complicated by high levels of crime in part the legacy
of the long armed conflict and the presence of a large indigenous
population, which is mostly poor and has its own languages and
traditions. The donor community, including USAID, is concerned
about the government's institutional capability to implement the
reforms required by the peace

accord. A major challenge for the Guatemalan government is to take
advantage of this window of opportunity in which donor assistance
is available to implement further justice system reform.

Appendi I V x U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Honduras Honduras'
history as an independent republic was marked until recently by
extended periods of military rule. In 1982, yielding to domestic
and international pressures, the Honduran military turned over the
government to civilian control. Democratically elected presidents
have headed the government since then. However, the military
remained in charge of the police until the mid- 1990s. In 1993,
following a series of violent demonstrations, a new president was
elected on a platform whose

priorities included improving the criminal justice system and
enhancing respect for human rights. Judicial and law enforcement
changes ensued. In late 1993, Honduras abolished the military
investigative police but maintained the national police under
military control. Also, Honduras established a Public Ministry
having responsibility for the prosecutor's office and civilian
investigative police. A constitutional amendment that the Honduran
Congress ratified in 1996 removed the national police from
military control. In 1998, the passage of the police organic law
brought together the national civilian police and the Public
Ministry's investigative police under a Ministry of Security.

U. S. Rule of Law Improving the criminal justice system in
Honduras is closely intertwined Assistance and Related with
strengthening democracy and promoting economic growth. To support
this effort, USAID and ICITAP have implemented most of the U. S.
Results

rule of law assistance to Honduras. USAID provided about $8
million in rule of law assistance between 1987 and 1998 to help
improve judicial institutions. The agency is planning to provide
more than $7 million between 1999 and 2002. ICITAP has provided
about $4 million in rule of law assistance from 1994 through 1999
to help establish a civilian national police force. USAID Since
the late 1980s, USAID rule of law assistance has focused on
improving criminal justice system organizations, including the
courts, prosecutor, and public defender. This assistance also
sought to enhance the

population's access to the justice system. USAID's justification
for providing rule of law assistance is that a strengthened
justice system and Rule of Law are critical to the continuing
stability of democracy in Honduras. Currently, the USAID program
is focusing on supporting the enactment and implementation of a
new criminal code, which is pending before the Honduran
legislature.

USAID began obligating funds for rule of law activities to
Honduras in 1987 as part of a broader program known as
Strengthening Democratic

Institutions. Through fiscal year 1998, obligations in support of
rule of law activities totaled about $6.7 million. A second
program devoted exclusively to rule of law activities, known as
the Strengthened Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights program,
began obligating funds in fiscal year 1997. This project is funded
through 2002, with a total budget of about $8.5 million.

Beginning in 1994, USAID's rule of law program started to support
the establishment and strengthening of a prosecutor's office in
the newly created Public Ministry. This support was intended to
build up not only the institutional structure of the office and
the Public Ministry but also the

capabilities of prosecutors to satisfy the requirements of a new
criminal procedures code. This code is expected to substantially
change the way criminal investigations, prosecutions, and trials
are conducted. In the courts, USAID's program has supported
efforts to improve administrative practices and establish merit-
based selection mechanisms for judges and court personnel. At the
Supreme Court, the program has funded activities aimed at
strengthening the Inspector General's Office, which monitors
judicial performance. The program has supported training court
personnel on the requirements of the new code. USAID's program has
also included activities aimed at building public support for
justice system reform. The agency has provided small grants to
private sector organizations that have become active in reforming
the

justice system and in promoting passage of the proposed new code.
USAID also developed a small program to bring Honduran law
students to the United States to visit U. S. courts and law
schools to witness first- hand how our system works. USAID's rule
of law assistance supported the work of the Honduran National
Judicial Reform Commission, which drafted the proposals

creating the Public Ministry in late 1993 and the court's
Inspector General Office in 1995. USAID provided assistance to the
Public Ministry to help it get underway. According to Honduran
officials, creation of the Public

Ministry has raised expectations in the general population that it
is possible for anyone not only the wealthy or powerful-- to
approach the court system and demand justice. Honduran officials
noted USAID's support for the court's Inspector General Office.
One Supreme Court Justice said the Inspector General has been able
to stem the tide of corruption and improve performance by publicly
going after some judges found to be violating established judicial

requirements. High- profile Inspector General cases have put all
judges on notice that they could be disciplined or lose their
jobs. One concrete example of how judges' performance has improved
since the creation of the Inspector General's Office is the fact
that judges now keep track of persons who are in jail pending
judgment on cases for which they are responsible. USAID has also
supported the reorganization and computerization of the court
system. USAID provided computer hardware, software, and related
training for this effort. A computerized jurisprudence information
system was developed and put in place to enable magistrates,
judges, public defenders, and other judicial officials to access
previous court decisions. Technical assistance, training, and
other support, including reference materials, were also provided
to strengthen the courts. Similarly, technical assistance,
training, and logistics support were given to the Judicial School
to help upgrade the skills of judges, particularly in criminal
law. Moreover, the Public Defenders Office, which is part of the
court system, was strengthened and expanded through training,
salary upgrades, internship programs, and application of the
judicial career law criteria.

ICITAP During the 1990s, ICITAP's rule of law program supported
both the national police and the criminal investigative police,
which were brought together under the Ministry of Security in
1998. ICITAP's support for the national

police included training command staff, developing policy and
procedures manuals, and providing assistance to the police
academies, which train officers and recruits. Support for the
criminal investigative police has involved establishing a
comprehensive training program for all personnel, developing
manuals and procedural guides, strengthening the capabilities of
the forensics laboratory, and enhancing organizational,
administrative, and operational capabilities. ICITAP provides
basic and specialized training. Specialized training focuses on
investigation of auto theft, financial crimes, and robbery/
burglary, and providing crisis management in the event of a
kidnapping or bombing. ICITAP also supports joint training for
prosecutors and investigators. Public and private officials in
Honduras acknowledged the key role ICITAP played in helping the
police make a transition from a military to a civilian
institution. One official emphasized that U. S. agencies had
provided training, technical assistance, and equipment to the
police and that, without this assistance, it could have been
months before the police were properly trained and equipped.

Also, ICITAP has supported the investigative police's forensics
laboratory, through specialized technical training for its
technicians in Central America and the United States and funding
for the maintenance of laboratory equipment. Honduran officials
noted that the training, technical assistance, and laboratory
equipment the United States provided have allowed the

investigative police to provide the scientific data needed for
successfully prosecuting criminal cases. In addition, ICITAP has
given key technical assistance to the police academies to improve
training. ICITAP has helped reform the curriculum of the
academies, promoting courses on professional responsibility,
planning, and communications.

Remaining Challenges The immediate challenge facing justice system
reform efforts in Honduras is to enact a new criminal code
designed to improve how criminal investigations, prosecutions, and
trials are conducted. The Honduran legislature was considering a
bill for reforming the code during the fall of 1998, but
consideration was put off for several reasons, including Hurricane
Mitch. It is now expected that the new code will pass in 1999.
According to U. S. officials, another immediate challenge facing
reform efforts has arisen from the decision of the current
Honduran administration to disregard judicial career track
guidelines in appointing and dismissing judges. Although progress
has been made in prosecuting and dismissing corrupt judicial
officials, this decision can compromise future efforts to remove
such officials. U. S. officials note that these immediate
challenges should not call into question the need to provide rule
of law assistance to Honduras as it attempts to implement further
reforms of its criminal justice system. Even if the criminal code
is approved, Honduras will face other challenges. For example,
Honduras will have to obtain domestic and, probably, international
resources to carry out this reform; train all the justice
officials on the requirements of the new system; and implement
throughout the country the changes needed to reform the system.

Appe ndi V x U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Panama According to
USAID, after the removal of former dictator Noriega in December
1989, Panama's government institutions needed total rebuilding.
The criminal justice system had to reverse a legacy of
mismanagement, neglect, and corruption. Panama appointed a new
Supreme Court and strengthened judicial and law enforcement
institutions, including the courts, the public defender's office,
the prosecutor's office, and the Judicial Technical Police which
conducts criminal investigations. In December 1998, the Judicial
Technical Police became a semiautonomous institution with leaders
appointed by the Supreme Court.

U. S. Rule of Law Since 1990, the United States has provided more
than $43 million to help Assistance and Related enhance the
capabilities of Panamanian judges, prosecutors, investigators, and
public defenders and their organizations. USAID has provided about

Results $9.6 million in rule of law assistance to help improve
judicial institutions, while ICITAP has provided about $33. 7
million to support the

establishment and strengthening of a national police force. USAID
USAID's rule of law program has sought to strengthen criminal
justice

system institutions, including the courts, the prosecutor and
public defender's offices, and the Judicial Technical Police.
USAID terminated this program in September 1997 as part of an
overall effort to reduce its overseas presence. More recently,
USAID began developing a new rule of law program intended to
provide assistance to areas not supported by other donors. U. S.
rule of law training and technical assistance have helped enhance
the

capabilities of judges, prosecutors, investigators, and public
defenders and their organizations. The USAID program supported a
fundamental change in the operation of Panama's investigative
police. According to Panamanian officials, before the reform of
the police, Panamanian police investigators worked as a secret
service, without regard for human rights or due process. USAID
rule of law assistance also helped investigators improve their
ability to collect more timely evidence while adhering to legal
requirements, according to an evaluation of the program. 1
Moreover, because prosecutors are now better prepared and involved
from the early stages of an 1 Improved Administration of Justice:
Project Evaluation, Management Systems International (Panama

City, Panama: Sept. 5, 1997).

investigation, they have had higher conviction rates and fewer
dismissals of cases for lack of evidence. When legislation was
passed in 1991 integrating the work of prosecutors and
investigators, they resisted working together. According to
Panamanian officials, USAID assistance helped reverse this
situation. USAID assistance has supported the professionalization
of the judicial organizations through the training of all
personnel; the development of professional career tracks for
judges and prosecutors; and the establishment of law libraries in
the Supreme Court, Public Ministry, and the Judicial School.
According to a USAID evaluation, the agency's program sponsored a
whirlwind of training activities for judges, prosecutors, clerks
of court, and investigative police, among others. The training has
done much to modify attitudes and provide needed skills in the
judicial

sector, creating a sense of professionalism among judiciary
personnel who received the training. The USAID program also
supported the Public Defenders Office by providing the building
needed for housing the Office in a single facility in the capital
city, as well as computers, furniture, and other equipment. The
program also paid the salaries of seven additional public
defenders and some administrative staff. The salaries of the seven
defenders were eventually incorporated into the Office's budget.
USAID is about to begin a new rule of law program in 1999 at a
cost of $2.7 million over 4 years. USAID's goal for its new rule
of law program is to further facilitate the legal and policy
changes needed to sustain fair, fast, and independent criminal and
commercial justice systems. Whereas the last program supported
large- scale institution building, the new program will be smaller
in scope. It will attempt to fill gaps in assistance not addressed
by a 1998 justice sector reform project of the Inter- American
Development Bank. Areas under consideration for USAID's new
program

include supporting civil society groups to generate demand for
further legal reforms and completing activities left unfinished by
the last program, including the automation of case- tracking
systems and integration of investigative police and prosecutors.

ICITAP From 1990 through 1999, ICITAP has helped develop the
Panamanian National Police and the Judicial Technical Police.
ICITAP is providing training for new instructors and helping the
police develop a career ladder

for officers and create integrated information management systems.
ICITAP is also supporting efforts by the Judicial Technical Police
to establish a comprehensive personnel system, set up case
management and crime analysis systems, improve database links
between criminal justice components, train new instructors in
advanced subjects, and continue its support for the forensics
laboratory. In the final year of its program, ICITAP is shifting
its focus from broad institutional development to more specialized
training to leave Panamanian law enforcement agencies with self-
sustaining reforms. After the USAID program ended in 1997, ICITAP
took over the task of integrating the work of investigators and
prosecutors. During the 1990s, ICITAP played a major role in the
successful creation and establishment of the new civilian- run
national police force. ICITAP provided training in civilian
policing and investigative techniques, supported the training
academies, gave basic equipment to the institutions, and helped
establish an office of professional responsibility. The transition
of public security to civilian control was a major achievement,
according to private sector representatives.

According to a 1997 evaluation of the ICITAP program, 2 the
national police enjoy an improved image among the population. A
March 1997 poll conducted for the newspaper La Prensa revealed
that 64 percent of those polled believed that the police conduct
was good or excellent, while 34 percent believed it was bad or
very bad. Private sector groups also complimented the progress
made by the police, crediting ICITAP with successfully instilling
the police with professionalism and respect for human rights. They
also stated that petty corruption by police officers, which was
the rule under the Noriega regime, had virtually disappeared.

ICITAP also shares credit for the development of the Judicial
Technical Police. ICITAP's support helped establish a criminal
forensic laboratory. The laboratory now has fully staffed and
equipped sections for

photography, latent fingerprints, crime scene response, firearms
and tool marks, questioned documents, and drug analysis.
Laboratory officials are now capable of supplying investigative
information routinely and testifying in court.

2 Assessment of the ICITAP Program for the Development of Panama's
Police Systems, 1994- 1997 (Panama City, Panama: Sept. 1997).

Remaining Challenges Most Panama officials we spoke with noted
that USAID rule of law assistance had helped strengthen judicial
and law enforcement institutions. However, despite significant
achievements since the early 1990s, Panama's criminal justice
institutions are still deficient and corrupt. According to
Panamanian officials, Panama needs to provide additional

legal training for its justice sector personnel; complete efforts
to automate criminal records; improve the effectiveness of
criminal investigations, prosecutions, and trials; increase civil
society involvement in the reform process; and enhance the
independence of the judicial branch from the executive branch. But
additional resources are needed. For example, judicial officials
stated that, without USAID resources, efforts to automate the
records management system in four district courts and the capital
city archives have slowed considerably. They thought that it was
doubtful that domestic resources would be available to automate
beyond the five

locations. Similarly, a private sector official noted that the
judicial school has cut back its course offerings when Panama is
facing the greatest need for training judges and prosecutors.
According to a Panamanian official, judicial personnel will need
training in commercial, maritime, labor, and environmental law as
Panama gains full control of the Panama Canal in the year 2000.

Appendi VI x Comments From USAID

Appendi VI x I GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments GAO Contacts
Jess Ford, (202) 512- 4268

A. H. Huntington, III, (202) 512- 4140 Acknowledgments In addition
to those named above, Juan Tapia- Videla, Audrey Solis, Jeanette
Velis, Juan Gobel, Howard Cott, Mark B. Dowling, and Richard
Seldin made key contributions to this report.

GAO United States General Accounting Office

GAO/NSIAD-99-195

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Appendix I

Appendix I U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Colombia

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Appendix I U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Colombia

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Appendix I U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Colombia

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Appendix II

Appendix II U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to El Salvador

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Appendix II U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to El Salvador

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Appendix II U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to El Salvador

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Appendix III

Appendix III U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Guatemala

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Appendix III U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Guatemala

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Appendix IV

Appendix IV U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Honduras

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Appendix IV U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Honduras

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Appendix IV U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Honduras

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Appendix V

Appendix V U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Panama

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Appendix V U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Panama

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Appendix V U. S. Rule of Law Assistance to Panama

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Appendix VI

Appendix VI Comments From USAID

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Appendix VII

(711326) Let t e r

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