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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Date: 10/01/2008 Description: Overview of Civilian Police and Rule of Law Programs
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A cornerstone of stable and democratic nations is a criminal justice system in which citizens broadly accept and voluntarily comply with the law. As part of the U.S. Government's mission to support the emergence of stable democracies, especially in areas that have suffered from years of civil strife, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Office of Civilian Police and Rule of Law Programs (INL/CIV) supports programs to help institutionalize sustainable criminal justice sectors, instill public trust in the Rule of Law and protect human rights. INL/CIV's support, often in cooperation with other nations or international bodies, is designed to promote the following institutions:

  • Civilian police/law enforcement that prevents, detects and investigates violations of criminal law to identify, apprehend and assist in the prosecution of persons suspected of such violations;

  • Public prosecutors to review evidence gathered in a case, make determinations regarding the appropriateness of initiating a criminal prosecution and presenting cases to the courts for adjudication;

  • Courts that administer cases, set initial adjudication of guilt or innocence, and conduct appellate review of cases for final determinations of guilt or innocence;

  • Prisons or correctional facilities designed to incarcerate and reform those convicted of criminal offenses.

Without a strong and functioning criminal justice system people may by default apply "street justice" acting as judge, jury and jailer while human and civil rights are ignored and violated.

In many countries in which INL/CIV mounts a stabilization and reconstruction mission, previous armed conflict has left the criminal justice system dysfunctional or even completely failed. In such cases crime and public disorder are likely to increase, the government cannot provide efficient services, and the economy cannot flourish. The prompt restoration of public order by non-repressive means, with an approach that includes efforts focused on the police, courts and prisons, is an essential component of post conflict stabilization.  Read more


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