What we “should” be looking for in the New Attorney General.



Article 221 of the Political Constitution establishes that in order to be the Attorney General of the Nation and Attorney General of the Administration, the same requirements required to be a magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice must be met.

According to article 204 of the Constitution , there are five requirements that every applicant for this high position must meet: to be Panamanian by birth; to have reached 35 years of age; be in full enjoyment of their civil and political rights; have a registered law degree; and have 10 years of professional practice, whether in the Judicial Branch, Public Prosecutor’s Office, Electoral Court or Ombudsman’s Office, in charge that requires a law degree, or have practiced law teaching at any university in the country, for the same term.

In the complex world in which we live and with the challenges to the rule of law facing Panama, the aforementioned requirements are not sufficient.

The development of a profile for the Attorney General is key to the process that President Laurentino Cortizo must lead .

The same civil society organization that developed the profile for magistrates of the high courts and that was used for the recent designations (the Foundation for the Due Process of Law) also developed a profile for general attorneys.

This Foundation, based in Washington DC, prepared a 15-page document entitled: Guidelines for the selection of senior authorities of the justice system: prosecutor or attorney general.

According to this publication, a list of nine elements is proposed that should integrate the profile of an applicant to the Attorney General (a), which are: “ (1) Recognized honorability, (2) Independence and impartiality, (3 ) Outstanding legal knowledge, (4) Experience and recognized track record linked to the exercise of criminal law and criminal investigation, (5) Transparency in functional action, (6) Experience in managing relationships with senior government officials, experts, organizations of civil and public society in general, (7) Commitment to the protection of human rights, the rule of law and democratic values, (8) Experience in procurement, management and administration of human and financial resources, (9) Temperament and personal skills.”

To these criteria, two particular elements should be added to the Panamanian reality. The new attorney must have a commitment to respect the institutions of the Public Ministry. It is imperative that those prosecutors who currently carry out high-profile investigations and cases of drug trafficking and organized crime remain in their positions.

All these personnel required years of experience and training to do their job. Replacing it, unless strictly necessary, would inevitably delay the most important criminal cases carried out by the Public Ministry.

Perhaps, the missing element for a good solicitor is to be free from conflicts of interest. In Argentina, for example, the legislation establishes that the candidates for this high position must declare the activities carried out by their close relatives and, in addition, they must know their income statements and their patrimonial status before their respective interview.

The next attorney will have the opportunity to change the face of justice for the next five years and accompany the winds of renewal that are approaching the Supreme Court of Justice.

This designation will define whether we are a rule of law or if we lose ourselves in impunity.

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