Asia and the Pacific Region

Background

OPDAT’s Asia programs are diverse, focusing on combating terrorism and terrorist financing, money laundering, corruption, cybercrime, trafficking-in-persons (TIP) and gender-based violence, transnational crime, wildlife trafficking, protecting intellectual property rights, and promoting criminal procedure amendments and institutional reforms of the prosecution services and law enforcement entities. The programs, funded by the U.S. Department of State, vary due to differences in the host country’s justice sector capacities and the nature of the bilateral relationships. 

Selected Programs

Regional: Southeast Asia is both a key consumer of certain illegal wildlife products and a key supplier of others. In June 2018, an OPDAT Regional Resident Legal Advisor (RLA) program was established in Laos to counter wildlife trafficking (CWT) in Southeast Asia.  In addition to Laos, the RLA works in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to train prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officers on skills needed to prosecute kingpins committing wildlife crimes. The RLA focuses on encouraging money laundering charges in prosecutions and bringing government official counterparts from various countries in the region together to encourage cooperation. The RLA also works with governments to improve legislation to be compliant under the Convention on the Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

Bangladesh: OPDAT strengthens the Government of Bangladesh’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing efforts and conducts frequent judicial and prosecutorial skills-development programs. OPDAT also supports the Bangladeshi justice sector in addressing complex and transnational crimes, including public corruption, narcotics trafficking, and TIP, and works to strengthen Bangladesh’s ability to prosecute gender-based and domestic violence.

Burma: The 2021 military coup has disrupted OPDAT’s ability to partner with the government. The nature of OPDAT’s work in Burma is likely to change significantly even if the current hiatus is lifted.

Deployed in August 2017, OPDAT’s first Resident Legal Advisor partnered with the Union Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) to establish the Transnational Crime Program to strengthen its ability to combat complex domestic and transnational crimes, including public corruption, money laundering and financial crimes, cybercrime, narcotics trafficking, and TIP, as well as introduce new practices such as witness preparation, trial advocacy, and police prosecutor cooperation.

China: OPDAT promotes long-term criminal justice reform consistent with international human rights standards by providing expertise on criminal law and procedure to Chinese government officials, jurists, academics, defense lawyers, and law students; as well as by serving as a resource to the U.S. Embassy. Informal discussions of criminal procedure and other matters take place between the RLA and Chinese government counterparts. Most of OPDAT’s activities are conducted by the RLA alone, or in cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Chinese or American academic institutions. OPDAT fosters dialogue in the areas of criminal law and procedural reforms, rule of law matters, anti-corruption, and law enforcement cooperation (including on narcotics issues) and supports exchanges between Chinese and U.S. prosecutors. 

Indonesia: OPDAT develops and administers technical assistance in Indonesia to enhance the capabilities of justice sector institutions and their law enforcement personnel. OPDAT engagement focuses significantly on legal reform, strengthening prosecutorial and judicial institutions, and criminal case development.  Additional OPDAT priorities include improved international cooperation, compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions, inter-agency information sharing, and trainings that provide for sustained capacity building and institutional development. Further, OPDAT has trained and supported the Indonesian Attorney General’s Terrorism and Transnational Crimes Directorate, which has become a key U.S. Government partner.

Malaysia: OPDAT strengthens Malaysia’s capacity to investigate and prosecute complex transnational crimes, especially those involving terrorism, terrorism financing, money laundering, and asset forfeiture. The program aims to cultivate a closer working relationship between Malaysian and U.S. law enforcement agencies, as well as assist in Malaysia’s capacity to ensure court security. 

Maldives: OPDAT launched a new Resident Legal Advisor program in the Maldives in December 2019.  OPDAT promotes long-term stability and criminal justice reform in the Maldives by building capacity to combat transnational crime and corruption, developing comprehensive judicial reform, and enhancing mutual legal assistance capabilities. OPDAT regularly advises on policy issues, provides case-based mentoring on pending investigations and cases, and is developing focused programming to enhance long-term capacity. OPDAT also deployed an ILA in June 2021 focused on assisting Maldivian counter-terrorism authorities.

Nepal: OPDAT works with Nepal’s criminal justice sector on a myriad of Rule of Law issues to strengthen Nepal’s capacity to address money laundering, cybercrime, transnational crime, TIP, corruption, and wildlife trafficking.  OPDAT provides skills-development programs for prosecutors, investigators, and jurists in coordination with the National Judicial Academy and the Attorney General’s Office, and also partners with those organizations to effectuate the plea provisions in Nepal’s statutes that have not been implemented. Additionally, OPDAT works  with other ministries on legislative reform regarding cybercrime and digital evidence.

Pakistan: OPDAT assists in key criminal justice sector reforms, including prosecutorial support and skills-development programs; police – prosecutor cooperation; female prosecutorial training; support for legal education and engagement with civil society; anti-money laundering; and countering the financing of terrorism. OPDAT has developed law enforcement contacts within the country and continues to design and deliver assistance programs.   

Philippines: OPDAT helps develop the criminal justice sector in various ways. With regard to terrorism, OPDAT routinely conducts anti-money laundering/countering-terrorist-financing trainings for judges, and is working to develop a network of prosecutors, investigators, and judges who are experienced in counter-terrorism work. OPDAT also seeks to improve judicial security by supporting and guiding efforts to create a Philippine Marshal’s Service. OPDAT provides assistance on cybercrime legislation and training. Regarding TIP, OPDAT has led more than a dozen programs over the past three years and helped develop the curriculum for teaching cybercrime investigation at criminology schools. Relating to legislative reforms, OPDAT is working with drafting committees on reform efforts aimed at removing barriers to effective investigation and prosecution. In July 2020, the Philippines enacted the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA), a comprehensive reform of its counter-terrorism law that was the result of a years-long OPDAT initiative.

Sri Lanka: OPDAT deployed its first RLA in 2017 to improve the ability of Sri Lankan authorities to investigate and prosecute corruption and money laundering cases successfully, as well as advance mutual legal assistance. OPDAT provides a wide variety of technical assistance, including case-based mentoring of prosecutors and investigators, as well as supporting institutional reforms.

Updated July 1, 2022

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