Case Mapping, Selection and Prioritisation of Conflict and Atrocity-Related Crimes

Crimes Against Humanity (6)

Guidelines set out CMN recommended approach

Guidelines: Case Mapping, Selection and Prioritisation of Conflict and Atrocity-Related Crimes
Brussels, June 2018
26 pages
ISBN: 978-82-8348-168-6 

The CMN has released Guidelines setting out our recommended approach to case mapping, selection and prioritisation for conflict and atrocity-related crimes. The Guidelines are based on our experience in different post-conflict settings, as well as empirical observation and theoretical research. They outline:

  • Key general principles that help to guide case mapping, selection and prioritisation;
  • The scope of, and process for, mapping backlogs of open case files and broader incidents;
  • Considerations for the adoption of a policy to guide case mapping, selection and prioritisation process;
  • Model criteria for the selection and prioritisation of cases.

“Prioritisating conflict or atrocity-related cases can be controversial and challenging to navigate: the Guidelines provide a short introduction to the rationale and process to effectively prioritise such cases. They address the main challenges that trigger the need for prioritisation, the key principles that should be followed to ensure a just and transparent process, as well as model criteria to prioritise cases for criminal prosecution”. Dr. Emilie Hunter, CMN Deputy Director

Why prioritise conflict and atrocity-related cases?

Contemporary armed conflicts are characterised by an overwhelming range and scale of illegal conduct, often carried out against vulnerable or marginalised groups. Justice efforts should address the total character of victimisation, including the geographic area of victimisation and the affected communities, as well as the responsible organisations and individuals. However, it is rarely possible to provide criminal justice for all violations. Justice institutions are often limited in the number of cases that can be processed at any one time: without an objective and transparent strategy, cases will be pursued on an ad hoc basis without a clear structure – such as first come first served – while many others will remain unaddressed. This type of selective approach may – inadvertently or purposely – be discriminatory, partial or unfair, and could result in de facto impunity for certain offences, perpetrator groups or victimised groups.

How does prioritisation provide accountability for conflict and atrocity-related cases?

Case mapping, selection and prioritisation aim to address these challenges by enabling the totality of victimisation in any conflict to be addressed in an impartial and socially-sensitive way. They seek to balance the quest to end impunity for the perpetrators of mass atrocity with the constraints of justice and accountability mechanisms, ensuring a more efficient and transparent administration of justice. This does not necessarily mean the deselection of cases, nor the closing of all but a handful of cases, but rather establishes an objective and transparent process for the allocation and phasing of cases within and across appropriate justice mechanisms.

What kinds of cases should be prioritised for criminal prosecution?

The Guidelines propose that criminal prosecution should prioritise cases involving offences committed in the areas and communities most affected by violence. Equally, organisations or institutions most responsible for the commission of offences should face criminal justice to a greater extent than, or ahead of, organisations and institutions of lesser significance. Other cases or incidents may be allocated to other accountability mechanisms, depending on the post-conflict needs of the country and its legal framework.

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