Travailler avec les acteurs du secteur de la justice coutumière – Études de cas et leçons apprises dans le domaine de la RSS

11/02/2019 @ 15:36
par Eren Özalay-Sanli

La communauté internationale est de plus en plus consciente du besoin de travailler avec les acteurs de la sécurité et de la justice coutumières pour des programmes d’aides. On estime que 80 à 90% de la justice est rendue par des mécanismes coutumiers dans les pays du Sud. ISSAT a développé une page  « Thématiques en pratique » sur la justice coutumière qui propose des études de cas et des leçons apprises de plusieurs mandats réalisés au cours des dernières années dont, par exemple, une étude de cas sur les Shalish ; un mécanisme de justice coutumière au Bangladesh. Cette étude de cas examine comment la pratique du Shalish pourrait être poursuivie afin de faciliter le libre accès à la justice, tout en respectant le cadre légal en matière de genre et de justice sociale. Dans le cas du Bangladesh, cela a été effectué à travers des formations dispensées par des ONG spécialisées dans le droit au profit des acteurs de la justice coutumière.

A travers ses mandats en Guinée Bissau et au Nigéria, ISSAT a souligné l’importance de cerner attentivement les acteurs du secteur de la sécurité et de la justice coutumières dans chaque contexte et d’identifier des points d’entrée pour la réforme de la justice.

En 2019, ISSAT a pour ambition de se focaliser spécialement sur les acteurs du secteur de la sécurité et de la justice coutumières et nous voudrions initier un forum de discussion sur le sujet, afin d’identifier d’autres études de cas documentant de bonnes pratiques. La parole est maintenant à vous, en tant que membres de notre communauté. Quels ont été les avantages et désavantages de travailler avec des acteurs du secteur de la sécurité et de la justice coutumières ? Partagez vos exemples et expériences avec nous !

Merci d’avance pour vos commentaires.

25/02/2019 @ 17:17
by Guillaume Lacaille

Hi Eren,

The work that we have done in July 2018 on the Local Security Initiatives (LSI) in Burkina Faso as part of the EU SSF Facility, of which DCAF is a consortium partner, provide lessons on this theme, especially on non-state security providers. In Burkina Faso, designing a context-specific approach to LSI supervision has become a critical issue that is closely linked to the on-going national SSR process. It relates to the link between the State and the population, the rule of law, good governance and the control of the local dynamics of tensions.

Since 2016, LSI like the Koglweogo have flourished in regions of Burkina Faso not properly covered by Police and Gendarme forces. They initially gained some degree of legitimacy in the eyes of the local populations and it has become quickly impossible for the State either to disband them nor to ignore them. At the October 2017 Security Forum in Burkina Faso, the State recognised the effectiveness of LSI’s interventions in improving general security in certain regions despite instances of abuses of power and human rights violations. The literature on vigilante groups in sub-Saharan Africa helps to identify mid-term risks of such groups without supervision as:

  • The militarisation of organizations and the professionalisation of their members;
  • The politicization and communitarisation of the objectives pursued;
  • The connection with serious crime;  
  • The spread of regional security instability and violent extremism.

Therefore, at the time of our mission in Burkina Faso, the question was how to shape an acceptable situation in which State-institutions and LSI are not on a collision course while the population is better secured. The answer suggested a way to develop a framework providing a role and a clear set of missions for these groups that complement those of the Police and the Gendarmerie. This framework would established a set of red lines not to cross and a system of supervision by the national and local public authorities to mitigate the above risks. Such process needed to be consultative and to involve traditional and customary chiefs.

Examining the Burkinabè case presents us with the following lessons : Legal and institutional framework could be reviewed with a participatory approach. The distribution of operational responsibilities of LSI by geographical area should be implemented. This dynamic should be further elaborated within a national framework based on the model of proximity policing and the concept of human security but applied at the regional level. Good community safety practices should be identified and promoted.

And last but not least, there should be a link with the development approach. The Burkinabè context requires prioritising security among other national emergencies. The dynamic to be implemented is to take into account not only the security challenges expressed during the national forum but also to clarify the link with the root causes of "fragility" of Burkina Faso. This will provide national and international development actors with programmatic entry points to support LSI coaching. This perspective also offers areas of action for LSI, with their support role towards development.

As the national process of SSR in Burkina Faso is ongoing and violent extremism is quickly spreading out in new areas of the national territory, it is important to watch closely how these recommendations and lessons from previous examples are going to be implemented in practice in a situation where emergency responses to terrorism and longer term responses to fragility must be simultaneously provided.

Best, Guillaume.  

26/02/2019 @ 14:51
by Chelsea Dreher

Dear Eren,

Thank you for starting this timely discussion thread and for your team’s initiatives in this area. Many members of the INPROL community have worked with traditional security and justice actors, and wished to share their insights, suggestions for additional case studies, and recommended resources as you move forward with your projects.

First, Trevor Service offered his reflections from Somaliland, where the formal and informal systems worked well in parallel to each other. A training advisor with significant experience around community engagement and mobilization, Mr. Service describes how ‘Xeer’ (traditional elders) can effectively handle misdemeanors, while reporting outcomes/resolutions of their cases to the police. Given local trust in the Xeer, as well as the low cost and quick turnaround of their decisions, this justice mechanism is often preferred by community members. There are shortcomings with this system -for instance in rape cases, offenders may simply be relocated to a different village with little to no recompense going to victims. Additionally, communities are often physically isolated from police, so evidence is often destroyed or lost; thus it may be the case that the Xeer are the only avenue for justice by default, given inaccessibility of formal actors. Still, the system is effective and used by many Somaliland communities. Mr. Service adds a caveat about traditional systems: they may work in certain contexts because they “pre-date…the formal system and…are not just a ‘bolt on’ restorative justice element.” However, customary systems aren’t always benign or desirable. Reflecting on Northern Ireland, where police weren’t fully accepted as legitimate by all community members, he notes that power vacuums resulting from a lack of formal security and justice can just as easily be filled by violent paramilitary groups as by respected justice mechanisms. He closes by observing, “Informal systems have their place in many countries and work, but in some others it is a licence to instill fear into communities and deter reporting of incidents to the legitimate authorities as this is how control is maintained.”

Dr. Gary Cordner, Chief Research Advisor for the National Institute of Justice, wrote out a brief description of an Iwi Panel he observed in New Zealand. He explains that these panels are “police-referred, pre-trial informal session with community members, based on traditional Maori culture.” They “[o]ffer…support and guidance in lieu of formal court processing for minor offenses…[and i]f the individual complies with certain steps within a 6-week follow up period, no formal charges are pursued.” You can visit the website of the New Zealand Police here for more background information.

Senior Advisor for the U.S. Institute of Peace Colette Rausch posted a number of lessons learned publications based on staff engagement with traditional justice and security actors. The first is a book titled Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies – which in and of itself includes case studies from Mozambique, Guatemala, East Timor, Afghanistan, Liberia, Iraq, Sudan. Other resources on Afghanistan, Sudan, and Yemen include Informal Dispute Resolution in AfghanistanMany Shuras Do Not a Government Make: International Community Engagement with Local Councils in AfghanistanTraditional Dispute Resolution and Afghanistan’s WomenLessons Learned on Traditional Dispute Resolution in Afghanistan, and Islamic Law, Customary Law and Afghan Informal Justice. Also see Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn SocietiesTraditional Authorities’ Peacemaking Role in Darfur, and Dispute Resolution and Justice Provision in Yemen’s Transition.

Finally, Dr. Vivienne O'Connor recommends Transitional Justice in the Asia-Pacific as a high quality resource for reference as you continue with your work in the field.

I hope these responses will be of interest to you and your colleagues.


Chelsea Dreher

INPROL Coordinator

Program Specialist

U.S. Institute of Peace

03/03/2019 @ 22:54
by Eren Özalay-Sanli

Dear Chelsea,

Thank you very much for this comprehensive summary of the INPROL forum responses. All  of these comments are valuable for our work which is progressing.

I particularly found the USIP report Informal Dispute Resolution in Afghanistan very comprehensive in summarising the situation and addressing both the opportunities and challenges. The pilot projects that were initiated in Afghanistan were very interesting. Has there been a long term programme set up after the pilot project? It would be very interesting to know. 



03/03/2019 @ 22:54
by Eren Özalay-Sanli

Dear Guillaume,

Thank you very much for your earlier response based on your recent work on the non-state security providers in Burkina Faso. These policy recommendations for the Burkinabè context are very important, especially your focus on community safety. On this aspect, I have come across the Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN) programme funded by the EU and the success stories it has produced so far through Community Peace and Safety Partnerships in the country. I thought this might be of interest to you and your team.



06/03/2019 @ 17:48
by Chelsea Dreher

Hello Eren - I'm passing along a series of additional resources for reference, courtesy of Vivienne O'Connor via the INPROL Discussion Forums. All the best, -Chelsea

(1) Allen, M., Dinnen, S., Evans, D. and Monson, R., 2013, Justice Delivered Locally: Systems, Challenges, and Innovations in Solomon Islands. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Available at: delivered-locally-systems-challenges-innovations-solomon-islands

(2) Barfield, T., 2006, Informal Dispute Resolution and the Formal Legal System in Contemporary Northern Afghanistan [for the Rule of Law Program at the United States Institute of Peace Washington D.C. (Draft Report)]. Available at:

(3) Agarwal, A. K., 2005, Role of Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods in Development of Society: ‘Lok Adalat’ in India [Working Paper Series of IIM-A]. Available at:

(4) Coburn, N. and Dempsey, J., 2010, Informal Dispute Resolution in Afghanistan. Available at:

(5) Wilfried, S., 2005, The Challenges facing Non-State Justice Systems in Southern Africa: How do,
and How should Governments Respond? Available at:

(6) UNICEF, UNDP and UN Women, Summary of the Study, Informal Justice Systems: Charting a Course for Human Rights-Based Engagement. Available at:

(7) Sylvia, V., 2013, The “women's court” in India: An Alternative Dispute Resolution Body for Women in Distress, Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 45 (1), p. 76 103.
Available at:

(8) Jamia Millia Islamia, Discriminative and Derogatory Practices against Women by Khap Panchayats, Shalishi Adalats and Kangaroo Courts in India: An Empirical Study in the States of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (West), West Bengal and Rajasthan. Available at:

(9) International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2008, Traditional Justice and Reconciliation after Violent Conflict: Learning from African Experiences. Available at: tion_after_Violent_Conflict.pdf

(10) Golub, S., 2003, Non-State Justice Systems in Bangladesh and the Philippines (Paper prepared for
the United Kingdom Department for International Development). Available at: pdf

(11) Faundez, J., 2003, Non-State Justice Systems in Latin America Case Studies: Peru and Colombia. Available at:

(12) Dinnen, S., 2009, ‘Traditional’ Justice Systems in the Pacific, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Available at:

(13) Forsyth, M., 2011, Spinning a Conflict Management Web in Vanuatu: Creating and Strengthening Links between State and Non-State Legal Institutions, Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 43(63), p. 179 205.

(14) Forsyth, M., 2007, A Typology of Relationships between State and Non-State Justice Systems, Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 39 (56), p. 67 113. Available at:

(15) Department for International Development, 2004, Non-state Justice and Security Systems. Available at: