Thursday, December 14, 2006

Combating Serious Crimes in Post-conflict Societies: A Handbook for Policymakers and Practitioners

Event Title: Combating Serious Crimes in Post-conflict Societies: A Handbook for Policymakers and Practitioners
Sponsor: United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
Location: USIP, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Date: October 26, 2006
Time: 10:00am-11:30am
Approximate Number of Attendees: 90
Intern Attending: Ava Jones

Speakers: Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein, former chief of United Nations operations in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Liberia; Dr. Govind Prasad Thapa, additional Inspector General of Nepal Police (Retired), and Chairperson, Centre for Security and Justice Studies, Nepal; Major General David C. Ralston, former Chief of Staff for Operations and Intelligence, Kosovo Force (KFOR) and an author of the handbook; Dr. Max Hernández Camarero, Technical Secretary to the Peruvian National Accord; Colette Rausch, moderator, deputy Director, Rule of Law, USIP and Editor of the handbook.

This event marked the book launch for this handbook, which was conceived of in 2002 in response to the difficulties different actors faced in rebuilding Kosovo after the war. The handbook took a multi-dimensional approach with a focus on the criminal justice system. It was written to serve as a guide for policymakers and practitioners in their efforts to rebuild a country that has experienced serious crimes. It uses examples from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, as well as other countries that have experienced conflict.

Ambassador Klein spoke of his experiences in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Liberia and the UN approaches applied in each country with attention to their unique situation. In Croatia the UN had executive power, which allowed it to have a greater influence over the establishment of a new justice system capable of prosecuting war criminals as well as helping to set up Croatian sovereignty. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the UN created a flag, national anthem, and currency for the country. It also sought to go after the major players who committed serious atrocities for reconciliation. He noted that “justice was not always served.” In Liberia, more than 200,000 were killed under the rule of Charles Taylor. Often amnesty and immunity were given to those who committed serious crimes. Bribes and corruption were also prevalent. After Taylor’s “resignation”, there was difficulty in deciding whether Liberia or an international court should be responsible for trying him for crimes against humanity. Ambassador Klein reminded us that the lesson learned there is that truth and reconciliation efforts do not always work.

Dr. Thapa explained that the source of the problems in Nepal lay in deeply rooted conflicts. He stated that many mistakes were made because the country was unprepared to deal with these conflicts. He expressed his desire for “sustainable peace” for his country. He praised the handbook for its ability to be instrumental in improving police capability, helping to identify perpetrators, and closing the security gap.

Major General Ralston is a contributor to the handbook. The writing of the handbook began during the transition from military control to civilian rule of law in Kosovo. He gave an example of one problem facing military operations in that country. There were five principal countries charged with coordinating their operations which proved to be very challenging. He believes that there are certain enduring principles that must be used to combat serious crimes regardless of their location.

Finally, Dr. Camarero addressed the psychological impact of serious crimes on a society. He argued that during a conflict divisive attitudes become entrenched in the minds of the citizens. This leads to “conflict syndrome” which describes the state of mind of the whole society. The negative attitudes pitting one group against another threaten the ability of a society to rebuild after serious crimes have been committed.

There was a consensus from the panel that this handbook would be useful to future peacekeepers in their effort to rebuild societies post war. They also agreed that they wished this kind of literature had been available to them when they were involved in peacekeeping activities as it would have helped with the transitions the countries were going through.

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