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The idea for a region-wide multilateral Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaty for like-minded ASEAN Member Countries was proposed by Malaysia at the 8th ASEAN Senior Law Officials Meeting (ASLOM) held from 14 to 16 June 2002 and the 5th ASEAN Law Ministers Meeting (ALMM) held from 17 to 18 June 2002 in Bangkok, the Kingdom of Thailand.

Based on the heartening support received at the Bangkok meeting, Malaysia took the initiative to prepare a text of the proposed Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaty for the consideration of like-minded ASEAN Member Countries. Among the guiding principles for the formulation of the proposed Treaty were -
  • the creation of a multilateral instrument on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters for like-minded countries in the ASEAN region;
  • the creation of an effective tool to facilitate and enhance efforts to combat transnational crime in the ASEAN region;
  • the facilitation of the process by which countries in the ASEAN region could request and give assistance in the collection of evidence for criminal investigations and criminal proceedings;
  • and the facilitation of the implementation of the ASEAN Member Countries obligations under the mutual legal assistance in criminal matters regimes under international criminal instruments such as the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the UN Convention against Corruption, the UN Counter-Terrorism Conventions and Protocols and Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).

The proposed Treaty is intended to operate in conjunction with existing mutual legal assistance in criminal matters mechanisms, both formal and informal, and does not detract in any way from the existing co-operative mechanisms such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). It is further intended to enhance the existing cordial working relationships among the security and law enforcement agencies in the region by providing them with an additional and effective tool to combat transnational crime.

Malaysia hosted two Meetings of Attorneys General on a Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaty to discuss the proposed Treaty. The first meeting was held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from 30 June 2003 to 2 July 2003 while the second meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur from 24 to 25 May 2004. Both meetings received the full support and commitment of all participating countries as evinced by the high-level delegations led by the respective Attorneys General and Ministers of Justice of the ASEAN Member Countries. In addition, high-level representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America attended these meetings as observers.

The Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters among like-minded ASEAN Member Countries was finalized with the co-operation and commendable effort of all the participating countries and is the result of collaborative effort. The salient features of the Treaty are summarized as follows:
  • the widest scope of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters will be provided among the Parties to the Treaty with an emphasis on providing requested evidence in a form that is useable and admissible in the requesting Party
  • requests to and from the Parties will be channeled through a designated Central Authority in each Party to facilitate the orderly, effective and timely execution of requests for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters
  • the execution of requests will be in accordance with the domestic laws of the requested Party with due consideration for any specific procedural requirements of the requesting Party, to the extent that such procedural requirements are permitted by the domestic law of the requested Party
  • the requirements for the form and content of requests, the grounds for the grant and refusal of requests and the certification and authentication of evidence have been standardized for all Parties and are as prescribed in the Treaty
  • the Parties will endeavour to facilitate the grant and execution of requests under the Treaty through consultation
  • the Treaty does not prevent the Parties from providing assistance to each other pursuant to other treaties, arrangements or the provisions of their national laws
  • any difference or dispute between the Parties arising from the interpretation or implementation of the provisions of the Treaty will be settled amicably through consultation or negotiation between the Parties through diplomatic channels or any other peaceful means for the settlement of disputes as agreed between the Parties
  • the Treaty is subject to ratification, acceptance, approval or accession in accordance with the constitutional procedure of the signatory States and any State may accede to the Treaty upon consensus by the original Parties
  • the Treaty enters into force for each Party ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to it on the date of the deposit of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession
  • the Government of Malaysia is designated as the Depositary State and will register the Treaty pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.
The adoption and signing of the text of the Treaty in Kuala Lumpur on 29 November 2004 by 8 of the ASEAN Member Countries is a landmark achievement for the ASEAN region and proof to the international community of the region’s commitment to combating transnational crime in all its forms. It’s timely conclusion is also testament to the close working relationship among the law enforcement fraternity of the region.

The Union of Myanmar and the Kingdom of Thailand added their signatures to the Treaty as original Parties on 17 January 2006, thereby completing the signature process on the Treaty.
Attorney General of Brunei Darussalam
Minister of Law and Human Rights of Republic of Indonesia
Minister of Justice Lao PDR
Attorney General of Malaysia
Central Authority for Rendering Assistance in Criminal Matters among States, Myanmar
Attorney-General's Chambers of Singapore
Minister of Public Security, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Department of Justice Office of the Chief State Counsel, Philippines
Ministry of Justice Cambodia
Attorney General of Thailand