As part of an ongoing project funded by the European Commission within the framework of the European Union (EU) Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Centres of Excellence Initiative (EU CBRN CoE), UNICRI hosted the first Review Meeting of the draft Edition of the Prosecutors Guidebook to Chemical and Biological Crimes. The purpose of the guidebook is to provide law enforcement officers and civil prosecutors, and relevant investigative agencies, with guidance to support the successful prosecution of chemical and biological crimes.
The threat to acquire, produce and disseminate these hazardous materials to cause harm, has increased substantially over the past ten years. Lack of sufficient awareness and experience by both investigative agencies and prosecutorial teams has resulted, in some cases, in the loss of critical evidence required for the successful prosecution of the identified perpetrators.
Aiming to address the requests received from Member States, for the provision advanced tools to investigate and prosecute incidents involving the deliberate acquisition, stockpiling, production, transfer, or use of a chemical or biological agent. The Guidebook is a non-binding high-level guidance document covering a wide spectrum of key elements associated with the deliberate use of chemical and biological agents and toxins. This guidebook will initially be developed in English and be provided in both electronic and hard copy formats.
The initial draft of the Guidebook was sent to funders, external subject matter experts and a number of key stakeholders and international organisations. The high-level review meeting represented not only a crucial opportunity to examine the different chapters of the Guide, but also an occasion to provide participants with an overview of the program initiative. Participants were provided with the draft copy prior to the meeting and feedback was welcomed both prior to and after the review presentations.
Over 40 participants attended the online review meeting including members of the core development team, UNICRI project team, external subject matter experts, regional CBRN forensics experts, and representatives from international organisations and stakeholders including: the European Commission, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), the European Union's Law Enforcement Agency (Europol), the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the Biological Weapons Implementation Support Unit (BWC ISU), the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), the International Security and Emergency Management Institute (ISEM), representatives of the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative and the SEEE Regional Secretariat.
The session commenced with the welcoming address from the Head of the SEEE Regional Secretariat Ms. Mari Lursmanashvili, followed by the Programme Manager of the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) of the European Commission, Mr. Sorin Popa, and the Head of the CBRN Risk Mitigation and Security Governance Unit of UNICRI, Mr. Francesco Marelli.
Following the introductory remarks, the Senior Policy Officer from OPCW, Mr. Peter Hotchkiss, who contributed as the project subject matter expert provided a brief outline in relation to their involvement in the guide development; this was followed by the supporting remarks from the General Counsel of the International Association of Prosecutors represented by Mr. Gary Balch.
The introduction to the initiative and project’s historical background was provided by the Regional Coordinator of the CBRN Risk Mitigation and Security Governance Programme of UNICRI, Mr. Talgat Toleubayev, followed by a detailed chapter review by the UNICRI’s Senior Fellow Ms. Rebecca Hoile, in charge of the collation and development of the Guidebook structure and contents.
The Review session included opportunities for participates to provide high-level feedback and comments in relation to the guide structure and content. Feedback was received and comments noted for consideration and incorporation, with participants also encouraged to provide additional inputs to UNICRI for collation by the end of December 2021.
The Prosecutors Guide to Chemical and Biological Crime, was well received by the international organisations involved which acknowledged the usability, relevance and timely application of the guide for prosecutors, and for the investigative agencies they work with worldwide. The review meeting concluded with a brief overview of the second phase of the project which aims to develop practical components to support further skills development for different end-users including capacity building and training activities and tools.
UNCRI thanks the core team of subject matter experts, regional experts, and international organisations for their valuable contributions and dedication to the development of such a valuable resource and looks forward to providing the finalised document in early 2022.