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International Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters

The bases for the international judicial co-operation in criminal matters have been laid down by Law No. 144/99 of 31 August 1999. Article 165 identifies the powers granted to the Minister of Justice, which may be delegated on the Prosecutor General of the Republic. Order No. 1246/2016 of 12 January 2016 has provided for such delegation.

Article 21 of Law No. 144/99 provides that the Prosecutor General of the Republic is the central authority for the purpose of receiving and transmitting requests for international judicial co-operation in criminal matters. The Prosecutor General is entrusted with the dealing of requests provided for and covered by the sais Law, which have been drawn up and submitted on the grounds of a multilateral or bilateral instrument or, where applicable, under the reciprocity principle. In the fulfillment of his or her tasks, the Prosecutor General of the Republic verifies whether the requests are not contrary to the Portuguese Constitution and to the law, orders their proper preparation and translation, and provides for their forward.

This intervention is comprised in a traditional co-operation environment, pursuant to which the intervention of the authorities representing the State is compulsory. In the European Union area, however, mutual trust is the dominating principle that allows the direct transmission of requests among judicial authorities. In this sense, arrests are attained through the issuing and the execution of European arrest warrants, and the transmission of assistance requests is to be made directly among the locally competent judicial authorities. The same principle applies evenly to the Decisions based on mutual recognition.

The European Union has gradually developed mechanisms and identified entities likely to give support to Prosecutors as regards direct judicial co-operation. Worthy of note are Eurojust (European Union’s Judicial Co-operation Unit) and the European Judicial Network (to which refers Circular No. 6/00; its contact points are public prosecutors, who actively mediate this type of procedures). Iberred and Rede Lusófona, bodies established and operating out of the European Union area, pursue the same purposes of co-operation improvement. The Prosecutor General’s Office is a contact point of both bodies.

In order to provide support to and facilitate the public prosecutors’ intervention in co-operation procedures, a group of instruments was created, namely a Handbook on How to Issue and Send European Arrest Warrants (Portuguese only), a Mutual Legal Assistance Guide (Portuguese only), a Handbook on Mutual Recognition of Financial Penalties (Portuguese only) and a Handbook on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons in the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries/CPLP (Portuguese only).