International Legal Assistance In Criminal Matters
International legal assistance in criminal matters encompasses cooperation between countries on account of crime. In a broad sense cooperation covers mutual legal assistance, extradition and transfer of sentenced persons.
Mutual legal assistance: procuring evidence from a foreign state for a preliminary investigation or criminal proceedings, service of judicial documents.
Extradition: Surrender of a suspect or person sentenced for an offence to a foreign state for criminal proceedings or enforcement of sentence.
Transfer of sentenced persons: Transfer of a person to his home state for serving the remainder of the sentence.
International legal assistance is based on bilateral or multilateral agreements between states. Some states, such as Finland, may render assistance to a foreign state even in the absence of an international legal obligation.
Agreements on mutual legal assistance have been concluded under the auspices of the Council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations. Finland has concluded bilateral agreements with, for example, the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Cooperation in criminal matters in the European Union is based, in addition to the Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union, on Framework Decisions. A Framework Decision (nowadays Directive) obliges Member States to see to it that their national legislations correspond to the requirements set out in a Framework Decision. The most important Framework Decision is that on the European Arrest Warrant and Surrender Procedures between the Member States of the European Union (EAW).
Cooperation between the Nordic Countries has traditionally rested on direct contacts between the competent authorities. The Nordic Countries apply an independent and uniform set of norms in the extradition and transfer of sentenced persons (Nordic Arrest Warrant [NAW] and the Act on Cooperation between Finland and other Nordic Countries in the Enforcement of Sentences in Criminal Matters).
Most important agreements:
Agreements concluded under the auspices of the Council of Europe:
- European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (1959 Convention)
- European Convention on Extradition (1957 Convention)
- Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (Strasbourg 1983) and Additional Protocol thereto
A number of non-Member States have also acceded to these Conventions.
Corresponding agreements in the European Union
- Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union (MLA 2000 Convention)
- Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW)
- Framework Decision on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons
Several of the international agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters involve central authorities, meaning that requests do not have to be transmitted through the diplomatic route. Instead they may be transmitted through a specifically appointed Central Authority. In Finland, as in many other countries, the Ministry of Justice acts as the Central Authority.
Mutual legal assistance in the EU is based on direct contacts between competent judicial authorities. In matters concerning the EAW the competent authority in Finland is Helsinki District Court. In matters concerning the transfer of sentenced persons the competent authority in Finland is the Criminal Sanctions Agency.
The European Judicial Network (EJN) in criminal matters facilitates mutual legal assistance between the Member States of the EU. The Network is composed of contact points named by a Member State who may be contacted by foreign or domestic authorities in matters concerning mutual legal assistance. Finland has named as contact points police officers, prosecutors, judges and officials from the Ministry of Justice.
The task of the Eurojust is to facilitate and coordinate judicial cooperation between national judicial authorities in preliminary investigations and prosecutions in the EU in matters concerning serious, cross border organized crime. Eurojust is composed of prosecutors of the EU Member States.