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US, Japan finalize landmark legal assistance treaty

[JURIST] The United States and Japan have finalized a treaty that will allow law enforcement authorities from both countries to deal with each other directly to facilitate criminal investigations, rather than going through diplomats. The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) [draft text, PDF], which the two countries initially signed [US DOJ press release] on August 5, 2003, will take effect July 21 and allow the US and Japan to cooperate in regular legal proceedings, including taking testimonies, obtaining evidence, locating people and providing other assistance. The treaty will facilitate the investigation into crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking, child exploitation and obscenity, antitrust violations, environmental crimes, fraud and white collar offenses.

Though the US has signed over 50 similar treaties [US DOS backgrounder] with other countries, this is the first MLAT for Japan. The first MLAT the US entered into was with Switzerland in 1977. The US signed a MLAT with China [JURIST report] last year. Each party in the bilateral treaties designate a central authority, generally the Justice Department, to handle direct communication relating to criminal investigations and prosecution. Xinhua has more.

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