Judicial & Legal Reform/ (Re)construction

Last Updated: December 29, 2008

This sub-section addresses judicial and legal reform as a central component of peacebuilding processes. The first section addresses the definition of various notions related to the topic of judicial and legal reform, including reference to related notions such as justice sector reform and justice system reform. It also addresses the specificities of post-conflict situations, as the challenge actually may be to create rather than reform or even reconstruct the justice system.
Indeed, post-conflict situations represent a much more problematic "starting point" than other contexts of reform. Therefore, the second section explores the main characteristics, objectives, and phases of post-conflict judicial and legal reform/(re)construction. It also shows how they contribute to the different dimensions of the peacebuilding agenda, to which they are intimately linked.
The third section presents the main components and actors (both national and international) involved in judicial and legal reform. The reform of the justice system in post-conflict societies is generally seen as consisting of three parts (institutions): the judiciary, police, and prisons, which are often referred to as the justice "triad." A typology of the different forms of reform and of the different activities entailed by the (re)construction of post-conflict judicial and legal systems is also presented.
The last section presents a summary of some of the key debates and implementation challenges discussed by academics and practitioners in relation to judicial and legal reform and reconstruction processes in the aftermath of conflict. The points relate to the following sets of issues: justice reform as a technical or a political project; international standards versus local norms and imperatives; order versus sustainable peace; "sequencing" (maximalist versus minimalist approaches); "top-down" versus "bottom-up" reforms; the knowledge gap; and justice reform indicators and measuring impact.
The final section turns to a number of case studies, giving concrete elements about how these issues have been addressed in specific contexts, namely Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Kosovo, and Timor-Leste.

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