The UNODC Sahel Programme provides an integrated response to the challenges faced by the countries in the region, emphasizing the criminal justice chain as an entry point for peace and stability. From the development and updating of legislation and building capacity to collect information to carrying out investigations, prosecutions and delivering judgment in a timely manner, the programme treats the judiciary system in a global and integrated way.

UNODC and Justice in the Sahel

Access to Justice

Proper access to justice is essential for the protection of human rights. To this effect, as demonstrated by a number of legal instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, when laws fundamental to the freedom and the life of a person are threatened by the state, this person has the right to judicial assistance to ensure the state respects the charges and the obligations of the law it imposes. The right to legal assistance also implies the necessary and crucial need to strengthen capacities of the actors implicated, notably law enforcement agents, judicial authorities and defense attorneys. This ensures that criminals are brought to justice while respecting national, regional and international laws and procedures. The development of national legal assistance strategies for the Sahel countries is an implementation of recommendations from the first regional meeting on judicial assistance in the Sahel region that UNODC organized in September 2014. Read More

Respect for Human Rights

UNODC is responsible for the promotion of respect for human rights when it provides technical assistance to the Member States, concerning the treatment of suspects accused of acts of terrorism, equitable trials that are punctual and transparent for the alleged perpetrators. The Sahel Programme contributes to the promotion and the protection of human rights in all thematic domains, notably by awareness raising and capacity building to ensure the respect for these rights. UNODC has developed training tools based on human rights and notably concerning the justice system's response to terrorism. UNODC organizes regular activities on the respect for human rights during investigations and prosecutions of terrorism infractions in the Sahel. For example, a joint workshop with OHCHR and UNODC took place for actors implicated in the fight against terrorism in Mauritania to reinforce their comprehension and operational consideration of human rights in investigations of terrorist acts, and to identify concrete actions to mitigate related concerns and to bring together best practices from other countries (Read More). Another regional training-of-trainers workshop on the protection of human rights was held in April 2018 in Dakar with the goal of consolidating the reinforcement of national capacity in Sub Saharan Africa for the respect of human rights in criminal justice measures against terrorism and extremism. Read More 

Victim and Witness Protection

Since its creation, the UNODC Sahel Programme through training and assistance mechanisms, works towards the protection of victims and witnesses. In this framework, it provides to the Sahel countries training activities, operational exercises, and support from local NGOs. Furthermore, it contributes to the examination of law enforcement mechanisms to facilitate trust building between the personnel that make up the G5 Sahel Joint Force and vulnerable populations, and to favor improved treatment of victims and witnesses of terrorist acts and organized crime in the region. For example, in December 2014, the Sahel countires agreed to, through a regional conference led by UNODC, the priorities for the assistance and protection of victims and witnesses (Read More). UNODC developed national and regional training workshops in the region such as in May 2016 in Ouagadougou on the assistance and protection of victims and witnesses in the Sahel (Read More) as well as trainings for Malian civil servants on the same matter in August 2015, (Read More) and Nigerien civil servants in November 2016. Read More

Prison Reform

The Sahel Programme works towards the better management of penitentiary centers, in the framework of UNODC's contribution to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. Therein, the reform efforts aim to ensure the respect for the rights of detainees as stipulated by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) and other relevant international instruments, in particular international conventions on human rights. Moreover, in line with international instruments, these efforts aim to establish and develop programmes alternative to imprisonment as well as programmes on social reintegration. While these programmes target the total prison population, an assistance based on the adequate classification of prisoners should assist in creating and implementing these targeted initiatives, notably to counter the threats posed by radicalism and organized crime, that continues to hinder security and development efforts in the Sahel region. To attain this objective, the UNODC Sahel Programme has implemented since 2014, training activities and assistance. From the regional workshop held in Niamey on the treatment of prisoners and the management of prisons (Read More), to the workshop on implementing the Nelson Mandela Rules in September 2016 (Read More), UNODC continually contributes to the prison reform in the region.