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UN sponsors new guidelines for more effective and honest justice systems

UN sponsors new guidelines for more effective and honest justice systems

The United Nations crime-fighting agency and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have launched a series of guidelines to help countries make their criminal justice systems more effective and honest as a vital element for the maintenance of stable and democratic societies.

“To prevent conflict or build peace over the long term, you need a professional and honest police force, people who can perform intelligence-led investigations, a competent prosecution service, a fair judiciary and a humane prison system,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told the OSCE Ministerial Council in Brussels yesterday.

The so-called Criminal Justice Assessment Toolkit is designed to help practitioners reform their own criminal justice systems, bringing them into line with international standards. It will also enable advisers from the UN and other bodies to conduct assessments of the justice systems in individual countries and identify areas for appropriate technical assistance.

Written by a team of UN and OSCE experts, it covers policing, access to justice, prison and alternatives to incarceration, and other issues such as juvenile justice and the treatment of victims and witnesses. Divided into 16 modules, it provides detailed and comprehensive guidance for practitioners.

Mr. Costa stressed that building an effective system takes time, training and resources. “I am proud to present this toolkit, developed by both our organizations, which will be a practical resource for those involved in the administration of justice and which can evolve in line with their needs,” he said.

“At a time of so much instability and conflict in the world, we hope that such tools can help build or repair criminal justice systems to ensure that they provide security and justice for all,” he added.

OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, said the tools were designed to be widely applicable. “I am convinced the tools will make a difference for the people doing rule of law work on the ground, within the OSCE but also beyond,” he said.

In another development, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today hailed OSCE-UN cooperation, pointing out that it “consistently sets the standard for such partnerships, particularly in the security, economic and humanitarian realms.”

In a message to the 14th OSCE Ministerial Council delivered by Antonio Vigilante, the Director of the UN Office in Brussels, the Secretary-General acknowledged that improvements are needed including in joint conflict prevention efforts but voiced confidence that together, the UN and OSCE “can overcome any obstacles, and build not only a better, safer Europe, but also a more peaceful and prosperous world.”