Charting the Fragile Path of Progress
4. Prosecution I. Normative Benchmarks A. The Role of the Public Prosecutor Prosecutors exercise the accusation principle of criminal law: they can accuse an individual of a crime and bring him or her before a court of law. The fair and consistent exercise of the prosecutorial function is critical to the success of rule of law reforms. As a report by the International Commission of Jurists finds, “[r]espect for human rights and the rule of law presupposes a strong prosecutorial authority in charge of investigating and prosecuting criminal offences with independence and impartiality.” The significance of the prosecutorial function lies in the prosecutor’s responsibility to represent the public interest in criminal proceedings. As “representatives of the public interest,” effective prosecutors are vital to improving public perceptions of the criminal justice system. According to Nelson Mandela, “[t]he challenge for the modern prosecutor is to become a lawyer for the people … [and] to build an effective relationship with the community and to ensure that the rights of victims are protected.” As with judicial and police reform, prosecutorial reform is centrally preoccupied with the twin values of independence and accountability. However, experience with prosecutors varies widely, and there is no universal checklist of steps to achieve either goal. The values of independence and accountability can also conflict as improvements in one may come at the cost of the other. Moreover, lack of public confidence or perceived illegitimacy of prosecutors “International Principles on the Independence and Accountability of Judges, Lawyers and Prosecutors:...
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