Reinventing the Rules

Discover the Latest Innovations and Lessons Learned in Rule of Law and Legal Empowerment Projects

Mapping the Justice Sector in Post-Conflict States

The “Rule of Law Tools for Post-Conflict States” provides a great overview of key actors in the justice sector for donors and practitioners to consider when creating rule of law programs. While more popular projects can include working with bar associations, prosecutors, or judges, this report provides insight into the importance of taking a holistic approach to programming and sheds some light on entities that are often forgotten. Check out a few examples below:

Credit: Reuters

Credit: Reuters

Court clerks and administrative personnel: Often overlooked, these officers make the justice system work. They keep track of case files and dockets, schedule hearings and ensure order and safety in the courtroom. In most post-conflict settings, the administration of the courts is in as much disarray as the rest of society; files have been lost or destroyed, basic office equipment is lacking and there often is no electricity. Understanding the importance of these people, who really are the sinews and muscle of the court system, cannot be underestimated. Nothing happens without them. Because of this power and their typical low status and prestige, corruption is frequently rife, and favouritism in treatment and many abuses of power occur at this level.

Defence lawyers: Also frequently ignored or forgotten in peacekeeping, defence lawyers are absolutely vital if the justice system is to work. In many States, the existence of a vibrant, independent defence bar will be new.

Prison Administration: The prison service is a key link in the criminal justice chain that includes the police, prosecutors and defence lawyers, and the judiciary. Yet it is often ignored or, if recognized, underfunded. For example, in Afghanistan, the international community designated Italy as the lead country on reforming the judiciary, while Germany took the lead role in police reform. No lead country was identified for the prison service. Yet the prison situation in Afghanistan was a real emergency, with hundreds of prisoners at immediate risk of dying due to overcrowding, lack of food or mistreatment.

National legislatures: Often overlooked and weakened by executive or military dominance, the parliament can and should play an important part in judicial reform. From generating new laws on criminal procedure or penal administration to creating specialized committees to exert oversight over the executive (parliamentary committees on human rights, juvenile justice, women’s rights, law enforcement, criminal justice, etc.), the legislature should be an active and vocal partner in justice sector reform.

Law faculties: An obvious but often forgotten ally in justice sector reform. Since law faculties or law schools produce a country’s future legal practitioners there is no better place to seek to shape the competence, professional ethics and sense of responsibility to serve.

Judicial training centres: A shocking percentage of judges in post-conflict countries have had little previous professional training…Ensuring that practical skills dominate over theoretical or overly academic approaches is crucial. Learning how to run a courtroom, move cases along, keep track of files, write opinions and manage heavy caseloads efficiently is more important than yet another course on abstruse legal issues.

Research organizations, academic centres and think tanks: In Guatemala academic experts in criminology, anthropology and related disciplines participated in both designing and delivering police training. [Often institutions] overlook local academic research and expertise, which could enrich all aspects of its rule-of-law work. It should be routine…to canvass the local academic experts and seek information, insights and participation. This would also reinforce one of the previous dicta: it is essential to have a profound understanding of local factors and the context and history of crime, violence, discrimination, favouritism, repression and abuse before embarking on any rule-of-law initiative. And who is better placed to provide such information and analyses than the local academic and research community?

Recommendations from the Report:

  • Justice sector reform should receive immediate attention and large resources from the very start of a peacekeeping operation. Waiting too long or allowing “spoilers” to get established can make the job much harder, and it is almost impossible to make up for the time and momentum lost.
  • Non-governmental organizations and civil society in general should participate in strategizing. Planning and implementation should involve local NGOs early and in a meaningful way and not just as window dressing.
  • Public information campaigns explaining the importance of the population’s participation in justice reform are vital. This will also help manage expectations since this is a long-term and often slow process.
  • Access-to-justice projects are important; the lower courts should not be overlooked in favour of the higher-profile cases and tribunals. Most people’s contacts with the judiciary are at the lowest-level courts and it is here that they must see that changes are occurring, and quickly.
  • Honest and transparent public administration (vehicle registration, building permits, rubbish removal, public health inspectors) is central to the rule of law, but often overlooked. More people have contact with public agencies than with the courts and these agencies’ failure to perform, combined with bribery and corruption, can quickly deepen lawlessness and the reality/perception that nothing has changed. The United Nations should see programmes addressing corruption and good governance as directly related to rule-of-law efforts.
  • Judicial inspection units or internal disciplinary bodies must have adequate resources and total independence. Judicial misbehaviour must be punished quickly and fairly, otherwise everyone will lose faith in the enterprise.
  • No State or Government is monolithic; it is worth trying to identify allies who will support human rights and the rule of law within official structures and support them.
  • Judicial, police and prison reforms must go together, they are all part of a seamless whole and are mutually reinforcing.
  • Police reform projects should emphasize police-community relations, community policing, human rights, mediation and conflict resolution skills and criminal investigations techniques that respect human rights but are also effective in solving crimes. Rising crime rates in post-conflict settings are common and undermine not only security but also the possibility of enhancing the rule of law. Effective, rights-respecting crime fighting is a high priority.
  • Broad, national public information campaigns should explain the role of the new or reformed police and courts in a democracy. Regular meetings should be held between the police and community organizations and between judges, prosecutors and court personnel and the community they serve.
  • International assistance should pay particular attention to helping police develop and apply internal codes of conduct and disciplinary procedures, and helping inspector generals’ offices to investigate and punish police misconduct or involvement in corruption or criminal activities. Police misconduct must be punished fairly and swiftly or else the new police will look a lot like the old police, undermining any chance for reform.
  • All training, for the judiciary, police, NGOs, legislators, etc. should be practical and use pedagogical tools that involve active learning, participation, role playing, problem solving and small-group exercises.
  • Whenever possible, classroom or academy training should be followed by active mentoring in the field. On-the-job training both reinforces what was learned and allows feedback from the field to the training centres on what needs reinforcement or if new issues have emerged. This holds true across the rule-of-law spectrum (police, prison, judiciary, public servants).
  • Joint training among the judiciary, penal administration, the police and human rights specialists should be encouraged so that each sees more clearly the various roles all have to play and a sense of teamwork may develop. The rule of law depends on all of these sectors.

For more information on other justice sector actors and institutions or lessons learned from training programs, capacity building exercises, evaluations, and accountability mechanisms, click here.

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This entry was posted on April 19, 2013 by in Reports, Youth.

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