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