All participating States of the OSCE can potentially benefit from expert advice and assistance in developing and meeting relevant international standards and OSCE commitments in relation to criminal justice systems.
From its very inception, the Rule of Law Unit of ODIHR's Democratization Department (ODIHR Rule of Law) has focused on criminal justice reform. Projects and other activities carried out for the benefit of criminal justice actors have predominantly concentrated on professional skills development.
Currently, ODIHR Rule of Law continues to focus on criminal justice, but it has also widened its spectrum of activities to encompass other areas of law that have a significant impact on the population and the security environment of a country as a whole. Indeed, going forward, the Unit has decided that it shall focus more on institutional development rather than professional skills support. In this regard, ODIHR Rule of Law first analyzes situations on the ground and only plans follow-up activities after thorough assessments have been made.
Finally, ODIHR Rule of Law closely follows OSCE field operations' activities and attempts to establish an institutional memory of selected rule of law-related issues, in order to gather best practices and lessons learned and make them available to field operations and other interested parties.
The Rule of Law Unit's work is carried out under several different programme components:
ODIHR works with the legal communities and stakeholders in the OSCE area to promote robust and independent legal professions. ODIHR Rule of Law focuses on countries that face the greatest challenges regarding the issue of judicial independence.
This part of the Rule of Law programme targets the criminal justice sector and promotes reforms that strengthen fair trial guarantees in the OSCE area.
The Legal Profession
Lawyers play a key role in upholding the rule of law. ODIHR works with the legal communities and stakeholders in the OSCE area to promote robust and independent legal professions.
This part of the Rule of Law programme will explore the functioning of administrative justice systems and the availability of effective legal remedies in the participating States.
This component is designed to fulfil ODIHR's role as a repository of good practices and lessons learned from the Organization's efforts to support the rule of law and improve compliance with OSCE commitments.