Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More on peace: Post-conflict criminal codes

Imagine you're an international peacekeeper trying to do justice in a war-ravaged country that has none, perhaps because war ruined the criminal justice system in place, perhaps because there never was a criminal justice system to speak of. How can you quell violence by getting guns off the street in a country whose own law does not regulate firearms? How can you hold suspects if the local law of detention flouts international standards? What can you use to help people in the country build a criminal justice system useful both in the transition from war to peace and in the era that follows?
Questions like these gave rise to a multiyear reform joint venture, spearheaded by Neil J. Kritz, Director of the Rule of Law Program at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., and William A. Schabas, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights in Galway, in cooperation with the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its Office on Drugs and Crime. The project's just published the 1st of 3 volumes that together will make up the Model Codes for Post-Conflict Criminal Justice. Volume I includes a Model Criminal Code; subsequent volumes will contain a Model Code of Criminal Procedure, a Model Detention Act, and a Model Police Powers Act. Editors are Vivienne O'Connor and Colette Rausch. Assisting them were hundreds of experts (among them yours truly) who met over the years in Galway, Geneva, and elsewhere to discuss drafts and make suggestions.
It's hoped that these codes will provide the basis for an off-the-shelf set of laws that peacekeepers may apply, in order to assure that as conflicts recede they are replaced by -- as the phrase goes -- peace with justice.

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