By Pedro das Neves and Sílvia Bernardo
The Assistant-Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, Alexandre Zouev, was interviewed by the Justice Trends Magazine. Here is an excerpt of that interview:
JT: What are the key points of UN peace operations’ work in advancing Justice and Corrections in crisis-affected settings and which success stories can you refer to, more specifically?
AZ: Peace can only be built upon a foundation of Justice and respect for the Rule of Law. Strengthening the Rule of Law is essential for building and sustaining peace in any type of environment but especially in crisis-affected settings. Improved security, stabilisation and restoration of state authority requires effective and accountable justice and correctional institutions.
Criminal justice institutions can play a central role in the protection of civilians by helping to reduce the threat of spoilers from armed groups and prevent a relapse into conflict. Since 2012, Rule of Law work and UN Peace Operations have benefited from the engagement of multiple partners, under the Global Focal Point (GFP) arrangement for police, justice and corrections.
The GFP is a United Nations platform, co-chaired by my Office and by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), designed to strengthen the provision of Rule of Law systems, address and prevent violent conflict, protect human rights and restore justice and security for conflict-affected populations. The platform enables all participating United Nations entities — including UNDP, UN Women, OHCHR, UNHCR, and UNODC — to pursue shared objectives while respecting and leveraging individual mandates, capacities and comparative advantages.
Examples of success span several areas, including in promoting accountability for serious and conflict-related crimes: in the Central African Republic (CAR), MINUSCA’s police, justice and corrections experts –along with other GFP partners — jointly support the restoration of criminal justice and security institutions, including the operationalisation of a Special Criminal Court (SCC).
The SCC is a national court composed of both national and international magistrates, with jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes. The SCC is at a critical phase. The first tranche of investigators, prosecutors and judges have been appointed; the rules of procedure and evidence have been adopted; strategies on prosecution and witness protection are being developed, and investigations have commenced. These efforts support the extension of State authority, the fight against impunity and the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. The SCC is helping to solidify regional support for accountability mechanisms for atrocity crimes.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, GFP partners’ assistance to the Prosecution Support Cells (PSCs) has accelerated trials in the military justice system. The assistance of the PSCs has resulted in the conviction of 990 perpetrators; a total of 1,726 cases of sexual and gender-based violence were registered and 643 judgments have been delivered, resulting in the conviction of senior militia members for rape and sexual slavery.
In Mali, GFP partners are jointly implementing programmes in support of the extension of State authority in the North and are addressing conflict drivers through strengthening the Rule of Law. With our support, the Ministry of Justice adopted priorities essential for justice reforms outlined in the peace agreements, critical for the government’s ability to coordinate bilateral and multilateral support to the justice sector.
New areas of engagement include the operationalisation of a national specialised unit on terrorism and transnational organised crime, the appointment of prosecutors and investigative judges, the nomination of special investigation officers, and specialised training in these areas.
Regarding prison support in CAR, MINUSCA is supporting the demilitarisation of prisons and the creation of a civilian prison service as part of an overall strategy to enhance public safety and to ensure the secure and humane custody of detainees, including those detained for serious crimes.
Sixty-eight specialised government-provided corrections personnel are currently authorised to mentor and train prison staff, helping to prevent the escape of high-profile detainees who are potential spoilers to a fragile peace. The number of prison escapees, including high-profile detainees, decreased from 843 in 2015 to about 132 since the beginning of 2017 [Figures as of January 2018].
MINUSMA (our Mission in Mali) has assisted the national authorities in preventing the spread of violent extremism in prisons by providing a package of measures for the rehabilitation of two high-security wings in the main prison, in Bamako (where those suspected of committing terrorism-related crimes are held). MINUSMA has also provided Malian Prison personnel with specialised training on prison security and on identifying radicalisation and managing violent extremist prisoners.
JT: Surely, OROLSI’s mission could not be successful without help from partners. Who are those partners?
AZ: Yes, in fact, the success and sustainability of UN peacekeeping efforts hinge on strategic partnerships. Our primary partnership is with the national authorities who retain ultimate ownership of any initiatives designed to support their police, justice and corrections institutions.
Our main role is to build the capacities of national partners in order to support meaningful, legitimate and sustainable progress. However, while this is the most critical of our partnerships, it can also be the most delicate and challenging to establish and maintain.
The Global Focal Point (GFP) platform has increased UN coherence in the Rule of Law sector by aligning strategies/programmes with national development plans and serving as a single entry-point for host governments. Through joint assessments, planning, and programming, the GFP arrangement has increased impact and results by reducing competition, leveraging expertise and encouraging innovation.
The Group of Friends of Corrections is a Member States-driven initiative that supports the work of corrections in UN peace operations, both politically and substantively. The Group educates, advocates and supports the role of corrections in sustaining peace and security among the Member States and within various committee discussions in NY. This engagement has directly impacted on mandated language in various Security Council resolutions and secured necessary resources and programmatic funding for corrections initiatives. More substantively, national prison services from these Member States have actively supported our work with concrete initiatives such as corrections-specific assessment missions in CAR, and the development and delivery of specific training initiatives (such as prison leadership and gender-sensitive prison management programmes).
NGOs (international and national) are another significant partner in the corrections sector; examples include the International Committee of the Red Cross, Médicins sans Frontières, International Development Law Organisation and Penal Reform International (PRI).
National NGOs are particularly effective given their understanding of local customs, politics, culture and language, whereas PRI is a particularly strong advocate for implementation of the Mandela and Bangkok Rules. MINUSCA recently partnered with PRI to draft the prison service “demilitarisation” strategy. The draft was completed in September 2018 and will soon be presented to the CAR President for promulgation. This strategy constitutes the short-term and long-term road map for the development of the CAR prison service.
The authors are writers for Justice Trends Magazine.
Originally published at http://justice-trends.press.