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Cablegate: Panama: Supreme Court President Greenlights

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0461/01 1552100
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 032100Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2133
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 2688
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS PANAMA 000461

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

JUSTICE FOR OPDAT (VAKY)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID KCRM KJUS PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: SUPREME COURT PRESIDENT GREENLIGHTS
ANTI-CORRUPTION PLAN



SUMMARY

1. (SBU) Panamanian Supreme Court President Harley Mitchell
secured unanimous approval for three of eleven elements of a
longpending USGGOP anticorruption program funded by USAID,
Mitchell informed USAID Director on April 25, 2008.

Mitchell Breaks 3 AntiCorruption Initiatives Free

2. (SBU) Mitchell broke free and secured approval in three
key areas of a USAIDsponsored plan to prevent, investigate,
and sanction corruption in the judicial branch. He secured
approval in the following areas: 1) the establishment of an
oversight commission to formulate policies to prevent,
detect, and punish corruption and monitor that these
activities were carried out; 2) strengthen the internal
auditing of the judicial system to better prevent and detect
corruption; and 3) publish and put into operation a code of
ethics for the judicial branch. The Supreme Court officially
requested USAID's assistance on April 30 in the
implementation of these three initiatives during a meeting
with USAID Director, Chief Justice Mitchell, and two other
justices. The partial adoption and implementation of this
plan would place Panama at the top of the list of Latin
American Supreme Courts undertaking measurements to fight
corruption based on the standards set forth by the UN
Convention Against Corruption and the InterAmerican
Convention Against Corruption.

8 AntiCorruption Initiatives Remain Unapproved

3. (SBU) Discrepancies among Supreme Court magistrates on
some of the eight remaining initiatives accounted for the
continuing stalemate in other areas. These eight components
included: public procurement; access to judicial information;
citizen participation; simplification of processes; witness
protection; judicial performance evaluation; civil service
for the judiciary; and asset disclosure. The last component
was particularly controversial among the Supreme Court
magistrates, according to various readouts. Objections had
been voiced by several of the magistrates regarding the asset
disclosure component's requirement to publicize their asset
disclosures and those of their closest relatives. Leading
the opposition to the proposal for asset disclosure was
Justice Jacobo Salas, who refused to sign off on this
component. In addition to the controversy surrounding the
asset disclosure, magistrates debated whether to establish a
civil service for the judiciary. Nevertheless, the recently
appointed President of the Supreme Court, Harley Mitchell,
wholeheartedly embraced the entire anticorruption plan and
continued to advance the gradual approval of each of the
Plan's components.

USAID Will Assist In Implementation

4. (SBU) USAID will hire three consultants to assist with
the design and implementation of the three approved
anticorruption initiatives. To assist with the code of
ethics, a former magistrate from Argentina has been hired who
is an expert in this area. The internal auditing of the
judicial system will be redesigned and made more transparent
by a local consultant who has worked with the GOP before.
Finally, the third consultant will be brought in to conduct
three working sessions focused on establishing the agreed
upon oversight commission to formulate policies against
corruption. The workshops will begin in July and conclude by
the end of September.

Comment

5. (SBU) Mitchell is in the catbird seat right now. This
seasoned politician is now emerging as a justice sector
reform leader. Only twelve months from Panama,s general
elections, the timing of Mitchell,s announcement could not
be better. There is a palpable desire for reform of
Panama,s debilitated judicial sector. Never before has
Panama had a more auspicious political environment for
justice reform. The Embassy, working through USAID, will
work to implement the already approved initiatives while
simultaneously continuing to push for approval of the
remaining eight initiatives. Meanwhile, other major reforms
to the criminal procedure code are being considered and in
fact have passed first debate in congress. While the Embassy
has shared USG expert concerns over the new code with legal
sector leaders, we have not received much in the way of a
response.
ARREAGA

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