21 November 2019 - Under the framework of the UNODC Opioid Strategy, CRIMJUST project organized an expert meeting to continue developing the guidelines for prosecutors, judges and forensic experts for cases involving synthetic drugs. These guidelines address the challenges faced by criminal justice institutions in investigating and prosecuting synthetic drug cases, define and mainstream concepts and procedures, and present emerging mechanisms and practices. With the objective of reviewing and validating them, the meeting gathered eight international experienced practitioners - including judges, prosecutors and forensic experts -, who shared their expertise, points of view and recommendations. Productive and open discussions ensued, thus contributing to the development of more insightful, relevant and effective guidelines.
Loide Aryee, Chief of the Organized Crime and Illicit Trafficking Branch of UNODC, inaugurated the meeting welcoming participants and highlighting how the growing market for synthetic opioids is challenging common investigative and prosecutorial concepts and response strategies to drug-related cases. Due to their high potency, synthetic opioids are consumed, and therefore trafficked, in smaller quantities. As such, not only do they challenge both investigative and prosecutorial processes but they may also be misconstrued as less dangerous than traditional drugs. Justice Tettey, Chief of the Laboratory and Scientific Section of UNODC, thanked participants for their presence and encouraged them to exchange their views and considerations, stressing the importance of their work in helping develop these guidelines. CRIMJUST Coordinator and moderator of the meeting, Glen Prichard, intervened to express his gratitude towards the multifaceted, international participants and CRIMJUST's willingness and commitment to build a solid document.
Over the past century, the world has experienced several opioid crises. Yet, the current opioid epidemic currently raging across North America, and parts of the Middle East and Africa, presents a set of unique challenges, intimately tied to globalization. As such, UNODC guidelines on the best practices to prosecute synthetic-drug cases for judiciary and forensic officers are part of the urgent and global need for coordinated, comprehensive and multidisciplinary responses.
During the meeting, experts studied and assessed these guidelines, assiduously reviewing each section and identifying areas for improvement. This gave way to an insightful debate aiming to ensure they hold concrete, hands-on resources and guidance for practitioners to testify and provide evidence before court as well as to enact global strategies countering the synthetic-drugs illicit trade. A second edition of these guidelines will be released shortly.
This CRIMJUST initiative contributes to UNODC's commitment towards the Sustainable Development Goals by providing Members States with the resources and support to strengthen their institutions and build safer, more peaceful societies.
CRIMJUST is funded by the European Union under the framework of the "Cocaine Route Programme" and by the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). It seeks to enhance law enforcement and judicial counter-narcotic strategies beyond interdiction activities and to foster transnational responses targeting each stage of the drug supply chain.
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