Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

 

Background

Promotion of fair, humane and accountable criminal justice systems is a key step in fighting organized crime and promoting security and justice in South Asia. UNODC aims to provide Member States with expertise and advice to develop effective and responsible crime prevention strategies and policies and to build the capacity of their criminal justice systems to operate more effectively within the framework of the rule of law, while promoting human rights and protecting vulnerable groups. Efforts of UNODC in this direction are premised on the fact that crime prevention and criminal justice strategies must take a human rights approach and be based on the rules of law, together with the UN standards and norms.

Crime prevention and criminal justice strategies must be gender-responsive and respect the rule of law, therefore incorporating human rights law and principles. Acting as the custodian of the UN standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice, which promote human rights, UNODC assists Member States in reforming their criminal justice systems in order to be effective, fair and humane for the entire population.

The work of UNODC in crime prevention and criminal justice reform is guided by the UN standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice. The UN standards and norms are sets of non-binding rules, principles, and guidelines relating to different aspects of criminal justice, such as juvenile justice, violence against women, protecting the rights of children, and prison reform. Most of the UN standards and norms are resolutions adopted by the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council.

Thematic Areas of Focus :

Police reform: 

In principle, police powers are designed to protect the fundamental liberty and rights of people. However, in some environments, including post-conflict situations, the police perpetrate serious human rights violations against the civilians they are supposed to protect. Therefore, transforming police organizations into rights-respecting institutions and promoting training for police officers with a focus on human rights principles is necessary. Enhanced relationship between police and the community leads to strengthening of public confidence in the authorities, improved compliance with the rule of law, and lower crime rates.

In the law enforcement framework, the police are entrusted with a diverse set of tasks to maintain peace and security and the rule of law. In most countries, police are given extensive powers to enforce the law and they play an important role in the criminal justice system, although the nature, quality and underlying doctrine of the law varies between countries.In principle, police powers are designed to protect the fundamental liberty and rights of people. However, in some environments, including post-conflict situations, the police perpetrate serious human rights violations against the civilians they are supposed to protect. Therefore, transforming police organizations into rights-respecting institutions and promoting training for police officers with a focus on human rights principles is necessary.

In this direction, UNODC offers assistance in:

  •  Developing the capacity of the police to improve oversight, accountability, and integrity systems and mechanisms;
  •  Supporting comprehensive police reform through strategic planning and organizational change management;
  •  Developing the capacity of the police to promote urban safety (Community-Policing);
  •  Preventing crime in cooperation with local authorities and civil society;
  •  Promoting measures to prevent and respond to violence against women; and
  •  Assessing Public Safety and Police Service Delivery, the Integrity and Accountability of the Police, Crime Investigation, and Police Information and Intelligence Systems.

 

Prison reform and alternatives to imprisonment

South Asian prisons face serious challenges, which include very poor infrastructure, acute overcrowding, difficulties faced by prison administrations in separating different categories of prisoner and in exercising effective control over the prison population, lack of adequate prison staff training, and insufficient capacities with regards to prison-based rehabilitation programmes and preparation for release. Living conditions in many prisons of the region are dismal. The treatment of prisoners is often far from the standards set in the Nelson Mandela Rules, with little done for their rehabilitation and social reintegration.

UNODC believes that effective prison reform is dependent on the improvement and rationalisation of criminal justice policies, including crime prevention and sentencing policies, and on the care and treatment made available to vulnerable groups in the community. Reform of the prison system should therefore always take into account the needs relating to the reform of the criminal justice system as a whole and employ an integrated, multi-disciplinary strategy to achieve sustainable impact. Thus, reform initiatives will usually need to also encompass criminal justice institutions other than the prison service, such as the judiciary prosecution and police service, as relevant. 

Some key areas of concern regarding prisons include: prison overcrowding, poor prison conditions, poor health services within prisons, lack of social reintegration programmes, lack of information systems and strategic planning, lack of inter-institutional communication, lack of inspection and monitoring mechanisms, lack of support of, and information for civil society, lack of economic and human resources, and increasing numbers of prisoners with special needs that are rarely addressed within prisons.

The promotion of human rights provides the underlying rationale for the promotion of prison reform, and indeed the UN standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice. However, this rationale alone is often unable to bring about prison reform in countries with scarce human and financial resources. The detrimental impact of imprisonment, not only on individuals, but also on families and communities, together with economic factors, must be taken into account when considering the need for prison reform. It is also important that activities focusing on vulnerable groups, including children, women, and prisoners with special needs, should be included in prison reform programmes.

UNODC offers assistance in:

  • Improving legal safeguards for prisoners;
  • Introducing and widening the scope of alternatives to pre-trial detention within domestic criminal codes;
  • Addressing drug use, HIV/AIDS and other health issues among prisoners;
  • Increasing the scope of alternatives to imprisonment, decriminalizing certain acts, and reducing sentences for selected offences; and
  • Supporting offenders and ex-offenders to address their social reintegration needs (including in the area of criminal justice as well as labor, education, and social welfare).

 

Judicial Reform:

The judiciary plays an important role in stabilizing the balance of power within government and in enhancing public confidence in the government. The right to a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 10) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 14), as well as in regional treaties and conventions. An effective court system is an integral part of a functioning criminal justice system. The judiciary plays an important role in stabilizing the balance of power within government and in enhancing public confidence in the government.

The right to a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 10) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  (Article 14), as well as in regional treaties and conventions.

To this end, UNODC offers assistance in:

  • Developing legislation that will allow the judiciary to function independently, impartially, and with integrity;
  • Enhancing the capacity of the judiciary to train and educate judges and judicial officers; and
  • Enhancing the capacity of the judiciary to uphold human rights standards and norms in criminal cases.
  • Promoting access to legal aid

 

For more details, connect with us on:

Bangladesh:  Ms. Marina Yakunina,  marina.yakunina[at[un.org  

Bhutan:  Ms. Tandin Wangmo,  tandin.wangmo[at]un.org

India/Maldives:  Ms. Seema Joshi Arya , seema.arya[at]un.org 

Nepal:  Ms. Binija Goperma,  binija.goperma[at]un.org

Sri Lanka:  Ms. Anusha Munasinghe,  anusha.munasinghe[at]un.org

Communications/Partnerships:  Mr. Samarth Pathak, samarth.pathak[at]un.org