The COVID-19 pandemic poses particular risks to prisons and other places of detention, especially in conflict-affected settings, requiring critical preparedness and concerted and coordinated responses. The Justice and Corrections Service of the Department of Peace Operations, together with Division for Peace of UNITAR, has developed two practical guidance and operational tools:
i) An Operational Toolbox: COVID-19 Preparedness & Response in Places of Detention, which provides comprehensive and ready-to-use communication tools with clear information and visual posters to support prison administrators and staff in the efforts to prevent COVID-19 from entering prisons, and mitigate its impact in case of an outbreak; and
ii) a Remote Hearing Toolkit which provides national justice and legal stakeholders with a step-by-step decision-making framework for the introduction and use of remote hearing technology as a response to COVID-19 and thereafter to help improve access to justice in contexts where other obstacles hamper the delivery of justice services.
The Justice and Corrections Service also developed preliminary guidance on the immediate measures required to decongest prisons and to help ensure access to justice through remote alternatives and court hearings during and after outbreak.
A secure environment instils public confidence in the peace process, and is conducive to longer-term development efforts.
Laying the foundations for the longer-term strengthening and reform of rule of law institutions requires strong partnerships with national authorities, development actors and civil society, who will continue the work after the end of the mission.
We support the work of justice and corrections components in peacekeeping operations and special political missions as well as other United Nations entities, to implement the rule of law aspects of their respective mandates.
From its Headquarters in New York, the Justice and Corrections Service (JCS) coordinates strategic and operational support on mandate delivery, strengthening Member States’ support, leveraging partnerships and setting policy priorities.
Through its rapid response team in Brindisi, Italy, JCS provides field-based advice and specialized expertise to field missions and other field presences.
- Justice and corrections interventions encourage the peaceful resolution and prevention of disputes, strengthen the protection of civilians, improve national security, restore and extend the authority of the State and accountable rule of law institutions, including, justice and corrections services, restore trust and social cohesion, and contribute to the implementation of peace agreements. For example: assistance towards strengthening national criminal accountability and mechanisms to investigate and prosecute serious crimes fueling conflict, such as in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and South Sudan.
- Justice and corrections components work closely with national authorities to prioritize conflict prevention, contribute to durable political solutions, and advance SDG 16.
- Justice and corrections components provide strategic advice, policy guidance and capacity development in support of national prosecution capacities in countering terrorism; help address recidivism and the prevention of radicalization in prisons; and support national prosecution, judicial and corrections authorities to combat impunity and advance accountability for terrorism-related crimes.
- Justice and Corrections components support national authorities to enhance prison security and management (including of high-risk detainees) to mitigate the destabilizing effects of prison breakouts, disturbances and risks of radicalization.
- Justice and corrections components work with national counterparts to support gender-responsive rule of law reforms and services by promoting accountability for sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, helping revise discriminatory laws, policies and practices, and strengthen linkages between formal and informal justice mechanisms that promote and protect the rights of women and girls. In countries where sexual violence remains a feature of conflict, justice components support national efforts to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate such violations. In contexts where the return of internally displaced persons is challenged by disputes over property ownership and use, justice components facilitate the development of national frameworks with measures to protect women’s rights and access to land.
- Justice and Corrections components support the development and implementation of missions’ rule of law transitions’ strategies to identify rule of law priorities and continuity of interventions following missions’ drawdowns or withdrawals.
In times of conflict, people deprived of their liberty are often overlooked, disregarded or denied their rights. UN Peacekeeping works to ensure prisoners are not forgotten.
Our Judicial Affairs Officers and Corrections Officers, in United Nations peace operations may be United Nations staff members, justice experts provided by national governments, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) or consultants.
Justice and corrections officers assist host countries to deliver essential justice and prison services, strengthen criminal justice systems, and facilitate rule of law reforms. We do so by promoting accountability for serious crimes that fuel conflict, extending justice and corrections institutions in conflict-affected areas, and by enhancing prison security and management, including to help mitigate and address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Judicial Affairs Officers bring a wealth of specialized expertise as lawyers, judges, prosecutors, legal advisors and court administrators. Corrections Officers bring a wealth of specialized expertise as prison directors, prison registrars, prison security experts, prison doctors and prison officers.
We are approximately 120 Judicial Affairs Officers and 95 Corrections Officers, including 55 justice and 250 corrections Government Provided Personnel, who are dedicated to helping protect civilians, combat impunity, extend State authority and advance stabilization in 11 peacekeeping operations and special political missions: MINUSCA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, UNMIK, BINUH, UNSMIL, UNISFA, UNMISS, UNSOM, UNAMA, and UNIOGBIS.
In response to Member States' request for greater coherence and integration across the UN system, our judicial affairs and corrections officers work within the platform of the Global Focal Point for the Rule of Law (GFP) to promote joint rule of law approaches together with UNDP, as well as OHCHR, UNHCR, UNODC, UN Women and others, in an effort to combine their respective rule of law capacities and leverage their comparative advantages. The GFP operates in mission, non-mission and transition settings. It provides rapid deployment of expertise; support to joint design, planning and implementation of rule of law programmes; joint assessments; resource mobilization and seed funding; and the identification of good practices and lessons learned.
Corrections components also receive significant support from the Group of Friends of Corrections in Peace Operations. The Group of Friends is an international platform for UN Member States and their correctional services to connect on correctional policies, practices and activities, to advise and support corrections work in United Nations peace operations.
The Central African Republic has made progress in implementation of key aspects of the peace agreement, including in national level accountability processes for serious human rights violations and breaches of the agreement. The country’s Special Criminal Court which was operationalized in 2018, and has been mandated to investigate and prosecute international crimes committed in CAR since 2003, advanced investigations into priority cases; authorities finalized a strategic justice sector reform policy; and developed a de-militarization strategy for prisons. A national strategy on the demilitarization of the penitentiary system was adopted by the Government of CAR in January 2019.
In Mali, the United Nations has supported the Specialized Judicial Unit against Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime on management of investigations, including cases of serious attacks against United Nations peacekeepers. There has been increased community engagement and the provision of rule of law services: 16 out of 19 courts are partially operational in northern and central Mali. Sixty persons have been tried by the Pôle Judiciaire Spécialisé in Mali, with jurisdiction over atrocity crimes, terrorism and transnational crimes.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Nations-supported Prosecution Support Cells continued to strengthen accountability for security forces and armed groups, leading to the conviction of over 1,090 perpetrators since 2011, including senior-level officers for sexual violence and other atrocity crimes. The UN supported the national authorities in the prevention and management of Ebola and COVID-19 in the prison settings across the country.
In South Sudan, United Nations supported mobile courts to extend state authority and delivery of justice in conflict-affected and under-served regions, including for rape survivors. More than 290 cases of serious crimes are being heard for the first time since 2014, in a context where the absence of criminal accountability continues to undermine political efforts to resolve the conflict.
In Haiti, support has been provided to the Haitian Direction de l'administration pénitentiaire to strengthen their operational and management capacities. Both MINUJUSTH and BINUH have assisted the Haitian authorities to draft and implement a new Prison Law and a Strategic Development Plan (2017 – 2021), and to establish a prison inquiry commission to address deaths in custody.
In Libya, the GFP helped prioritize feasible joint rule of law interventions in a challenging, conflict-affected environment. In the Central African Republic, the rapid deployment of justice and security experts assisted with the development of a rule of law strategy, including on people’s access to justice; accountability for serious human rights violations and sexual and gender-based violence.
Support to non-mission settings. As part of the GFP, JCS has regularly shared its unique expertise including in non-mission settings to enhance the UN support to national rule of law institutions. Corrections expertise was deployed, for example, to Gabon to assist the identification of gaps in the justice sector and strategies to address them; in Liberia after UNMIL closure, to pilot a training on corrections leadership; in Burkina Faso to support local Prison Service authorities.
Coordinated transition processes. Advocating and implementing joint programming in the area of the rule of law, justice and corrections components have facilitated transitions in Timor Leste, Liberia, Haiti and Darfur and assisted in creating a framework for the long-term engagement of missions and UN Country Teams with national authorities.
Enhanced gender responsive and inclusive rule of law institutions, through the integration of gender priorities in rule of law reform efforts, such as enhancing protection for women’s land rights in South Sudan or gender policy in the prison system in Haiti. The promotion of increased gender representation in formal and informal justice institutions, including in Mali and Darfur; and advanced initiatives on access to justice and strengthened judicial responses, including for SGBV and CRSV, such as in CAR and DRC.
Advancement towards gender parity goals, through the increased representation of women among government-provided justice and corrections personnel (GPP) from 25% in 2018 to 29% in December 2019, thereby exceeding the 2019 target as per the Uniformed Personnel Gender Parity Strategy; Nominations of women GPP make up approximately 25% of 2019 nominations, compared to 15% in previous years.