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February 2009 - Litigation & Dispute Resolution. Legal Developments by Franco Caiado Guerreiro & Associados.

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1. The Relation of Cooperation between the Portuguese Republic and the Angolan Republic.

Due to its linguistic and cultural proximity, Portugal has been an important partner of the Angolan Republic in what concerns cooperation on several domains, namely in the economic and corporate area, as well as in banking, insurance and equity, new technologies of information and communication, legal and judicial cooperation, amongst others.

According to information provided by the Angolan Government the economical figures for 2009 are alluring: Angola shall reach a rate of growth of its gross domestic product (GDP) of 11 per cent, an annual inflation rate of 10 per cent and a production of 739,7 million oil barrels per day.These figures indicate a real economic growth of the Country which will be reflected in several sectors of the Angolan society.It is in the aforementioned context that Portugal has been establishing numerous agreements and protocols with the Angolan State.For example, regarding legal cooperation three protocols have been signed on the 18th of October of 2006 between the Portuguese and the Angolan Ministry of Justice in order to promote the project of the “On the Spot Firm”, the installation of the Portuguese computing and management procedure “H@bilus” (which will contribute for the modernization and computerization of the Criminal Court “D. Ana Joaquina”, in Luanda) and the protocol of cooperation in the justice domain.Amongst the signed agreements and protocols we would highlight the Agreement of Legal and Judicial Cooperation between the Portuguese Republic and the Angolan Republic.

2. The Agreement on Legal and Judicial Cooperation

The existing agreement of Legal and Judicial Cooperation signed in Luanda on the 30th of August of 1995 was ratified by Portugal through the Presidential Decree number 9/97 of the 4th of March published in the Portuguese Official Gazette.The exchange of instruments of ratification occurred on the 5th of April of 2006 and  the agreement came into force on the 5th of May of 2006, in the terms foreseen by notice number 582/2006 of the 11th of May published in the Portuguese Official Gazette.This bilateral agreement focuses in the areas of legal cooperation, cooperation in civil, criminal and administrative offence matters, cooperation in identification matters, registry and notary, training and information, as well as technical, legal and documental cooperation.In what regards legal cooperation, the agreement contains rules and access conditions to the respective courts (article 1) for nationals of the signatory states in a situation of reciprocity, as well as matters related with the legal aid (article 2).

The communication and compliance of the judicial acts, the acts practised by diplomatic and consular agents, as well as the subject of nationality conflict are also matters foreseen in the above mentioned agreement on cooperation in civil matters (articles 4, 9 and 11).Still in respect of cooperation in civil matters, the agreement contains provisions on the reviewing and confirmation of the judicial decisions and the acknowledgement and enforcement of decisions relating to maintenance claims (please refer to articles 12, 13 and 14).The contracting States equally agree in what concerns the cooperation in criminal and administrative offence matters, on the obligation of providing reciprocal assistance regarding the notification of documents, the taking of evidence, the search warrants and seizures (article 32). Matters such as the application of coercive measures, the criminal registry, the criminal action, the extradition conditions and requests and the provisional arrest are also safeguarded in said agreement (articles 50, 55, 56 and 57, respectively).

The aforementioned bilateral agreement also contains definitions on the effectiveness and enforcement of criminal judgements, as well as on the international effects of such judgements.On the other hand, in areas such as identification, registry and notary, training and information, one may find provisions on the recognition of identification documents from the contracting States, the diplomatic and consular civil registry, the exchange of nationality, the certificates of civil registry and information on inheritance matters.The agreement ends with the technical, legal and documental cooperation between the contracting States.

3. The practical implementation of the Agreement of Legal and Judicial Cooperation

One may verify that the aforementioned agreement has a potential impact in the life of citizens and companies of both countries by bringing real benefits to them such as the access to courts in reciprocity conditions, the legal aid, the effectiveness of judicial decisions on maintenance obligations, the application of coercive measures, the sanctions of deprivation of liberty, penalties, fines, loss of assets, deprivation of rights, amongst others.Furthermore, the present bilateral agreement places both Countries (Portugal and Angola) in a position of proximity and cooperation which very much supports and boosts the development of trade and investments from a Country to another, for it is known that the efficiency, security and swiftness of courts has a direct impact in the economic agent’s behaviour.    

Ricardo Costa Macedo / SĂłnia Maria BatalhaFranco Caiado Guerreiro & Associados