A note from the team leader on Fair and Efficient Justice

Fair, efficient, humane and accountable justice systems provide a cornerstone in a society based on human rights and the rule of law.

Throughout our history and together with partner institutions all over the world, we have contributed significantly to promote the development of justice systems providing access to justice for all and treating everybody in contact with its institutions with respect for their human rights and freedoms.

We have worked directly with a vast number of regional and national court systems, prosecuting authorities, police organisations, prison services and professional training institutions. We have also contributed to develop the capacity of National Human Rights Institutions, to more effectively promote and protect human rights.


  • Strengthened operational and human rights capacity of over 25 National Human Rights Institutions in Africa and Asia to promote and protect human rights, by providing staff training, infrastructural support and advice.
  • The implementation of a nation-wide prison auditing system based upon the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR) in Indonesia
  • Improved knowledge and skills regarding human rights and methodologies for teaching human rights and criminal justice among National Prosecutor colleges in China
  • The development and implementation of the first compulsory and credited human rights course for future prosecutors and judges in Cambodia, in cooperation with the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions
  • Strengthened capacity of Human Rights Officers at each level of the Kenyan correctional system to conduct human rights assessments, deliver relevant training and advise on compliance with international standards
  • Strengthened human rights knowledge and skills with judges of the East African Court of Justice, and improved awareness of and information on the Court’s cases and proceedings with regional stakeholders
  • Publication of the first book on Arab Jurisprudence in the Application of International Conventions on Women’s Rights

Nearly all of the work we do has an aspect of ensuring that justice is fair and efficient and today we contribute to ensure that:

  • justice sector institutions, including courts, prosecuting authorities and law enforcement agencies are increasingly responsive to international human rights standards in their respective field of operation
  • access to justice and protection of human rights are enhanced through more effective National Human Rights Institutions
  • vulnerable and marginalised groups under any form of detention, imprisonment or non-custodial measures are increasingly treated in line with international standards and norms on human rights
  • human rights education for present and future generations of justice sector officials is improved and increased, through strengthened academic and professional training institutions

Learn more about how we work with Fair and Efficient Justice in specific regions and countries.

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The Situation

Fair, efficient, humane and accountable justice systems that provide access to justice for all and treat persons in conflict with the law, victims, and others in contact with its institutions and mechanisms, with dignity and respect for their fundamental rights and freedoms provides a cornerstone in a society based on human rights and the rule of law.

It plays an important part in ensuring a just, peaceful and safe democratic society. Justice systems based on human rights and the rule of law are crucial in order to safeguard that:

  • societies are inclusive and non-discriminatory
  • vulnerable groups such as refugees, migrants and victims of trafficking are provided with necessary protection
  • remedies are available to counter potential effects of economic globalisation, such as infringements in labour rights and environmental hazards

Critically, it can be argued that procedures and practices for fair, efficient, humane and accountable justice significantly determine the equal enjoyment of all human rights.

There is no lack of international instruments addressing the obligation of justice sector institutions to provide for access to justice and uphold the respect for human rights in exercising their duties.

However, throughout the world, justice sector institutions continue to be frequent sources of human rights violations. We experience and read daily about inefficient, corrupt or politically controlled court systems offering impunity for human rights atrocities committed by law enforcement agencies.

We hear about accused persons who are tortured in police cells, men, women and children who are kept under inhumane conditions without access to adequate food and healthcare, persons who are denied a proper defence in a criminal case just because they cannot afford a lawyer and national human rights institutions that cannot provide an effective remedy due to lack of independence or shortage of resources and capacity.

At the international level we also continue to experience underresourced international and regional mechanisms for the protection of human rights as we also see a decline in the support for international criminal justice, with the most prominent example being the future of the international criminal court which is at stake.

Looking at the above, the challenge today is not standard setting, but how to give effect to the existing international and regional standards. In order to do this, we need to strengthen relevant international, regional and national systems, structures and mechanisms to ensure fair efficient, humane and accountable justice delivery.

Over the last 25 years, we've provided support to strengthening the capacity of justice systems all over the world. Given the changing environment for human rights in the world today, where human rights are increasingly challenged in many countries, it has become critical for the Institute to continuously re-assess with whom we are working, where we are working and how we are working with the justice sector in order to continue to make a significant contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.

This is an important ongoing process, in which partner countries, partner institutions and methods will be assessed regularly.


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