All of the participating States of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have undertaken international obligations and committed themselves
to comply with a set of rules and principles in the administration of criminal justice.
These rules ensure fairness of the proceedings and create safeguards to protect the human rights of people who are particularly vulnerable to the state’s influence and pressure. Ultimately, they ensure that criminal proceedings result in justice and uphold the
rule of law.
The criminal-justice systems of some participating States still require substantial
structural and institutional reforms to achieve compliance with OSCE human dimension commitments. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)
encourages and supports such reforms at all stages of the criminal process: pre-trial,
trial, and post-trial.
Any reform effort in the area of criminal justice should be comprehensive, since all the
individual parts of the system must work together. The ODIHR carries out its activities with an understanding that no part of the legal system stands alone and that all
institutions involved in the administration of criminal justice are interconnected and
interdependent.
Just as a criminal-justice system has different levels — the working level of lawyers,
prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement personnel, as well as the level of criminalpolicy decision-making — so should reform assistance. In its approach to reform, the
ODIHR does just that. At the working level, training is provided to judges, prosecutors,
and lawyers to help them improve their professional skills; opportunities to exchange
experiences and knowledge are also created through the organization of seminars,
conferences, and occasional study trips. At the political level, the ODIHR provides advice and expertise to facilitate policy decisions to further uphold and strengthen the
rule of law and human rights in the administration of justice.
Strengthening the rule of law in criminal-justice systems is by definition a long-term
process that ultimately requires significant cultural and attitudinal changes. Thus, the
ODIHR’s work in this field involves ongoing, long-term programmes that take into account the need to ensure customized assistance specific to each country’s history and
current developments.
Guided by these principles, the ODIHR implements activities in the criminal-justice sector of OSCE participating States in Central and Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Europe,



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