UN Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes: A Review by Professor Don John Omale (Nigeria)- June 23, 2020
A Brief Review of the United Nations’ Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes.
By Professor Don John O. Omale, & Global Advisory Council member (Nigeria), Restorative Justice International (RJI)
One of the mandates of the United Nations (UN) is to reform criminal justice systems around the world. Hence, in 2000, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) requested the UN Secretary-General among other things to seek comments from Member States and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as the institutes of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme network, on the desirability and the means of establishing common principles on the use of restorative justice programmes in criminal matters. The Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters (see https://www.un.org/ruleoflaw/blog/document/basic-principles-on-the-use-of-restorative-justice-programmes-in-criminal-matters/ ) was therefore published in the year 2002. The document recommended the following:
Sec.2. Encourages Member States to draw on the basic principles on the use of restorative justice programmes in criminal matters in the development and operation of restorative justice programmes;
Sec.20. Member States should consider the formulation of national strategies and policies aimed at the development of restorative justice and at the promotion of a culture favourable to the use of restorative justice among law enforcement, judicial and social authorities, as well as local communities.
Sec.21. There should be regular consultation between criminal justice authorities and administrators of restorative justice programmes to develop a common understanding and enhance the effectiveness of restorative processes and outcomes, to increase the extent to which restorative programmes are used, and to explore ways in which restorative approaches might be incorporated into criminal justice practices.
Sec.22. Member States, in cooperation with civil society where appropriate, should promote research on and evaluation of restorative justice programmes to assess the extent to which they result in restorative outcomes, serve as a complement or alternative to the criminal justice process and provide positive outcomes for all parties.
The ECOSOC resolution noted that Restorative justice processes may need to undergo change in concrete form over time; and so, Member States should therefore encourage regular evaluation and modification of such programmes. The results of such research and evaluation should guide further policy and programme development.
In line with the above ECOSOC resolution, the first edition of the UN Handbook on Restorative Justice https://www.unodc.org/e4j/data/_university_uni_/handbook_on_restorative_justice_programmes.html?lng=en was then prepared for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and was presented to UNODC in Vienna at its expert meeting held on 30 – 31 January 2006. The initial document has contributions from key experts in restorative justice including Yvon Dandurand, Daniel Van Ness, Martin Wright, Ivo Aersten, Christa Pelikan and Ann Skelton, amongst others.
Subsequently, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 2016/17, mandated UNODC to convened an Expert Group Meeting on Restorative Justice in Criminal Matters in Ottawa, Canada in November 2017 with the objective of reviewing the use and application of the Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters as well as new developments and innovative approaches in the area of restorative justice.The Ottawa meeting recommended that ‘additional practical guidance’ be developed on various issues concerning restorative justice in criminal matters.
Accordingly, with a generous support from the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ), UNODC in June 2019 undertook to produce a revised version of the UN Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes by inviting international experts in restorative justice from around the globe who convened in Bangkok, Thailand to produce this second edition https://www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/20-01146_Handbook_on_Restorative_Justice_Programmes.pdf
This edition was officially released on 14th May, 2020. The objectives of this edition have been stated in a number of different ways, but essentially contain the following key elements: (a) Supporting victims, giving them a voice, encouraging them to express their needs, enabling them to participate in the resolution process and offering them assistance; as well as the possibilities for using restorative justice in serious crimes (such as violent extremism; sexual offences; environmental crimes, amongst others).
Professor Don John Omale was a part of the UN working group tasked with updating the UN Handbook of Restorative Justice Programmes.
(photo: left to right-Dr. Sandro Calvani and Professor Don John Omale in Bangkok, Thailand in June 2019. Both are members of RJI’s Global Advisory Council)