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Where violence has been the dominant force in a society, UN Peacekeeping works with national authorities to rebuild justice institutions.

Judges standing in a row.

UN Photo/Lee Woodyear

A group of senior magistrates and the Minister of Justice attend a swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed judicial officials.

Post-Conflict Problems

In post conflict areas, courthouses are frequently dilapidated and in some cases completely destroyed following a conflict. Key legal records and other necessary materials are often missing.

Typically, the independence of the judiciary is weak, their salaries low and often unpaid, providing a fertile ground for corruption. 

The requirement for justice is heightened with the need to address the results of atrocities committed during a period of conflict.

Strong and fair justice system

It is essential when building lasting peace and security to have a functioning and accountable judiciary.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that all people shall enjoy equal protection under the law, enforceable by an independent and impartial tribunal.  A strong and fair justice system is critical to realizing this right.

A strong justice sector must be:

  • Independent
  • Transparent
  • Representative and
  • Impartial

Justice institutions must also be nationally owned, accountable and trusted by citizens for whom they were established. 

Success stories

In recent years, UN Peacekeeping has implemented a number of successful projects through our missions including:

  • Opening legal aid offices in post-earthquake Haiti
  • Training magistrates in the Congo
  • Coordinating justice initiatives in Afghanistan
  • Assisting to reopen courts in Darfur
  • Assessing the justice sector in Southern Sudan
  • Assisting to draft and provide training on the Law Against Domestic Violence in Timor-Leste
  • Facilitating dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on missing persons in Kosovo
  • Studying tribal justice mechanisms in Liberia
  • Facilitating the development of an €18 million justice programme in Côte d’Ivoire

UN Peacekeeping’s approach

UN Peacekeeping in 2012 has 315 judicial affairs officers in our missions.

We work to re-establish and strengthen the judicial and legal systems in countries recovering from war.

The first step is a thorough assessment of a host country’s justice sector:  What kind of legal and constitutional reforms may be necessary? Are there enough judges, prosecutors and other court officials?  Do they need training?  Are there enough court buildings? Can damaged or rundown facilities be quickly repaired? Who can help pay for this?

UN justice experts then work together with their national counterparts to chart a course forward for reform and professionalization – prioritizing necessary legislation, training needs, and facilities for construction or repair. 

To better monitor and mentor, UN officials are often co-located with national actors working in court houses, the Legislature and Ministry of Justice.  There they can provide advice, assistance and support to these key institutions while ensuring that they are fully functional and deliver quality justice.  This is also an opportunity to determine what training and other assistance is needed for judicial staff to improve their professionalism.