U.S. Institute of Peace Press

A Handbook for Policymakers and Practitioners

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 $17.50 (Paperback)

USIP Press Books
December 2006
192 pp. , 6" x 9"

"This groundbreaking publication will be an invaluable tool in the hands of those facing the challenges of restructuring postconflict societies. Put together by seasoned practitioners and distinguished scholars, it explains what approaches have and haven’t worked, discusses the kinds of resources required, and provides a rich fund of practical examples and references...This book should be on the desk of every chief of mission and international official tasked with rebuilding societies traumatized by conflict."
— Jacques Paul Klein, former Chief of United Nations Operations in Croatia (UNTAES), Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIB), and Liberia (UNOMIL).

This path-breaking volume fills a major gap in the literature on efforts to rebuild societies emerging from conflict. Drawing on firsthand experience in tackling organized and other destabilizing crime in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, it distills that practical, hard-won knowledge into lessons and guidance for policymakers and practitioners who must face similar challenges. No similar work exists anywhere.

"Serious crimes" include any and all criminal acts that threaten post-conflict security, hinder political and economic reconstruction, or undermine public trust in nascent criminal justice institutions. From money laundering to murder, drug trafficking to terrorism, these crimes flourish where governments are impotent or officials are themselves complicit in illegal activities. Their impact on post-conflict societies of all types can be profoundly damaging--but they can be dealt with.

More than forty seasoned practitioners--judges and generals, prosecutors and human rights activists, scholars and government officials from across the world--participated in the discussions that generated the broad guidelines and more specific prescriptions presented in this handbook. Each of its chapters covers a different area of activity--initial assessment, reform of the legal framework, institutional reform, investigation and prosecution of serious crimes, and foreign assistance--providing not only general guidance but also real-life examples to illustrate the importance of adapting to local circumstances.

Easy to read and easy to use, with checklists and sidebars supplementing the succinct text, Combating Serious Crimes will be greatly appreciated by governments, international and regional organizations, and foreign assistance providers throughout the world. The police, judges, prosecutors, defense counsel and peacekeepers who address serious crimes on a day-to-day basis in post-conflict states will likewise find the book invaluable.


Colette Rausch is associate vice president for global practice and innovation at the United States Institute of Peace. She leads the development of new approaches, research, learning, and tools in the areas of promoting justice, security, and rule of law; countering violent extremism; and strengthening inclusive societies.

Elaine Banar is chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York. She was special legal advisor on organized crime matters for UNMIK and helped establish the first witness protection program in the Balkans.

Kristen Fennel worked for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. She helped develop and implement rule of law and police assistance programs in Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania, Indonesia, and East Timor.

Adalbert Gross is a senior police officer of the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. In 1997–98, he worked for the UN International Police Task Force in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as head of the Local Police Development Section, where he was responsible for the organization of local police structures, assessment of personnel, implementation of police trainings, and the certification of local police according to the Dayton peace accord.

Michael E. Hartmann has been director of Rule of Law for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan since 2013. He was the adviser to the attorney general of Afghanistan for the U.S. State Department– Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau Justice Sector Support Program and was the criminal justice program man ag er for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Deborah Isser is lead governance specialist at the World Bank. She is an author of the World Development Report 2017 (Governance and the Law) and manages the Justice for the Poor program. She is the editor of Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies (United States Institute of Peace Press, 2011).

Major General (retired) Andrew Mackay CBE, spent twenty-seven years in the British Army. Before joining the army, he served for over three years as an inspector in the Royal Hong Kong Police. Over the course of his army infantry career, he saw operational service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Vivienne O'Connor is an independent rule of law consultant with fifteen years of experience in the field. She heads TransformLaw, an interdisciplinary consulting firm that provides strategic advice on how to facilitate transformative legal change pro cesses in conflict-affected and developing countries.

Major General David C. Ralston is president of Government Secure Solutions CGI Inc. He served in the United States Army for over thirty years, retiring from active service in 2007 as a major general. Over the course of his army career, he served in a variety of command and staff positions throughout the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and Kosovo.

Browse Inside the Book


  • Foreword by Paddy Ashdown
  • Serious Crimes in Postconflict Societies
  • Conducting an Assessment
  • Reforming the Legal Framework
  • Institutional Reforms
  • Strategies for Addressing Serious Crimes
  • International Engagement
  • Further Reading and Resources

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