Thursday, April 14, 2011

Criminal Justice a Crucial Element of Successful Transition

Panelists speak about criminal justice
and accountability.
The session on criminal justice opened with the presentation of Naziha Boudhib, a Tunisian lawyer, who analyzed the criminal justice experience in the Arab world.

Two distinct examples emerged in this analysis – the Iraqi Tribunal, and the cases underway in Tunisia and Egypt following the revolutions there.

The Iraqi experience is an example of transitional justice, said Boudhib, but the fact that it took place under foreign occupation and was marred by procedural breaches meant that it did not meet the international standards of fair trial.

Today we have new experiences resulting from revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The significance of these cases lies in the fact that there is no foreign intervention—they are a result of a fully national effort, and which gives them great value and importance.

The response of judiciary was very slow, but the public opinion pressured the process of investigation to begin. The decisive push came from the initiative of 25 lawyers filing motions to start legal procedures against former government officials and heads of the ruling party.

Criminal justice suffers from inefficiency of procedures, maintains Boudhib, which draws public criticisms of selective justice against certain members of judiciary. However, civil society and public at large continue to be vigilant and closely observe the actions of judiciary, she concluded.

Luc Côté, Senior Consultant with ICTJ, stressed that there is no conflict between traditional criminal law and transitional justice.

In his presentation, he examined the difficulties encountered in criminal justice processes in transition. This includes the large numbers of perpetrators and victims, limitations of criminal trials to provide adequate compensation, and the complexity of such cases.

These factors underscore the importance of other mechanisms of transitional justice, concluded Côté.

David Tolbert, ICTJ’s President, emphasized the importance of bringing to account leaders entrusted with upholding the law.

The cases like that of Ceausescu, who was summarily executed during the revolution in Romania, or the trial of Saddam Hussein, illustrate the importance of due process and the rule of law, said Tolbert.

The future of holding leaders accountable for serious crimes is the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was ratified by Tunisia as a tremendous symbol of the revolution.

However, it is important to note that the Rome Statue does not only refer to the ICC itself but a system of addressing these crimes in which the state is primarily responsible for their investigation and prosecution.

Other courts can be better models for the future and not only for crimes against humanity, but also corruption and organized crimes. One such example is the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a Bosnian institution functioning under Bosnian law, but with assistance from international judges and prosecutors.

It is clear the criminal justice is a pillar of any successful transition and that there needs to be a strategy on the part of judiciary and investigative bodies to take on these complex cases.

The ensuing discussion revealed the urgency of issues surrounding the functioning of the judiciary in Tunis and the need for its reform. There were repeated suggestions that the inefficiency of the judiciary results from political influence, while some legal professionals responded that such assertions come from the lack of understanding of how the system works and unrealistic expectations. There was agreement that Tunisian judicial system must be reformed and rehabilitated, including investigative and prosecutorial bodies, as there are serious doubts about its independent in public.

The possibility of establishing special courts in Tunisia and the need for greater transparency and an informed debate on the reform of judiciary were also discussed.

No comments:

Post a Comment