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For over 37 years, INL has been actively strengthening fragile states, supporting democratic transitions, and stabilizing conflict-affected societies by helping partner countries develop effective and accountable criminal justice sector institutions and systems.

For INL, the term “justice sector” encompasses core institutions and actors involved in the prosecution, defense, and adjudication of criminal matters, e.g., the judiciary and court system, prosecutorial services, criminal defense counsel, legal assistance providers (including civil society), government entities such as the Ministry of Justice, and the legal framework in which they operate.

The primary objectives of INL’s justice sector assistance are to improve judicial and law enforcement effectiveness, bolster accountability and transparency of criminal justice agencies, and institutionalize respect for human rights and the rule of law. INL is further guided by a set of principles, including national ownership, a contextual and whole-of-system approach, citizen engagement, and sustainability. These principles are laid out in the INL Guide to Justice Sector Assistance.

INL works with partner countries to strengthen criminal justice systems so they are accountable, uphold law and order, and are responsive to citizen needs. Together, they play a vital role in combating transnational threats such as organized crime, corruption, terrorism, violent conflict, and trafficking in persons and other illicit trade. Systems that lack functioning and accountable justice systems provide fertile ground for social discord and extremism, corruption, instability, criminality, and citizen insecurity. In today’s interlinked world, those effects can easily spill over borders and damage the interests of the United States and other countries around the world.

INL undertakes bilateral justice sector assistance in partnership with U.S. federal, state, and local justice sector actors and institutions as well as non-governmental organizations, including academic institutions. INL also works on this front closely with multilateral organizations, such as a range of United Nations bodies.

Highlights of INL’s Justice Sector programs include:

Whole of Systems Approach

  • INL’s builds the capacity of Haiti’s criminal justice sector by supporting training on basic and specialized skills, including investigation techniques, pre-trial preparations, and defending/prosecuting a suspect during trial. The program also focuses on specialized training on criminal code reform, sexual and gender-based violence, ethics and human rights, and investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of transnational crimes, such as drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, anti-corruption and money laundering, and kidnapping. INL funds also support a program to strengthen and institutionalize the accountability and oversight of judges and court clerks.

Transition from Inquisitorial to Adversarial Justice System

  • One objective of INL’s programming in Mexico is to help implement Mexico’s 2008 constitutional mandate that requires all levels of government to transition from an inquisitorial to an accusatorial justice system by 2016. INL supports the Mexican Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) as it prepares for the transition, including by training PGR prosecutors and investigators, while also offering capacity building to federal justices on the oral trial system that is part of the adversarial system.

Building Prosecutorial Capacities to Tackle Complex Crimes

  • In Nigeria INL works with the Ministry of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. We help the Commission strengthen Nigeria’s legal framework and assist in building the capacity of their financial crimes investigators so that they can effectively address high-level financial crime, including money laundering, terrorist financing, and corruption.

Enhancing Criminal Defense Efforts and Access to Justice

  • INL in Tajikistan conducts a variety of efforts in the justice sector space, including: training the country’s beleaguered criminal defense community; supporting law-school reforms, which create lasting gains by improving the knowledge and skills of the next generation of legal professionals; implementing informational campaigns that increase legal awareness among the population; and providing access to quality legal representation for poor and vulnerable populations.
  • INL was heavily involved in ensuring the adoption in 2012 of the UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems (A/RES/67/187). Since then the United States has been an outspoken advocate for its implementation through diplomatic engagement and programmatic activity around the world.

Strengthening the Legal Profession

  • In Afghanistan INL provides continuing legal training to Afghan prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and criminal investigators. To prepare Afghanistan’s next generation of legal professionals, INL’s legal education programs established the first degree-granting Bachelor of Arts and Laws program in Afghanistan at the American University in Kabul. As part of that program, INL worked with over 230 Afghan law and sharia law professors and Afghan lawyers, including many who received LLM and PhD degrees in the United States. In turn they provided skills-based legal training and clinical experience to thousands of undergraduate law students at six Afghan universities.

Building the Capacity of Civil Society

  • An example of our commitment to civil society, INL supports a program in Moldova intended to both build the presence and effectiveness of civil society organizations while enhancing the quality and number of exchanges between them and their government on pressing justice reform issues in line with Moldova’s Justice Sector Reform Action Plan.

U.S. Department of State

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