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Establishing special prosecutorial units

Last edited: December 23, 2011

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Forming specialized prosecutorial units to facilitate training, foster expertise, and increase efficiency and quality of services to survivors. Survivors should have the option to work with female prosecutors. Units should be fully and consistently funded to promote sustainability. Research indicates that specialized domestic violence prosecution units increase prosecution and conviction rates, as well as victim cooperation and satisfaction (Klein, 2009). The advantages of specialized units are:

  • Prosecutors develop expertise on issues of violence against women.
  • Opportunities readily exist for regular review of protocols and policies for best practice standards.
  • Prosecutions are facilitated generally for cases of violence, possibly due to greater responsiveness to victims, a higher expectation of victim participation in the prosecution, and more efficient use of information, including data on recidivists and police reports (Klein, 2009).
  • Faster prosecutions can prevent escalation of violence.
  • Prosecutors may be able to coordinate more effectively with the community. Specialized domestic violence prosecutor units may be more likely to participate in task forces or coalitions involving community agencies. (Klein, 2009).
  • Prosecutors may take a more active part in building cases and may take on more challenging cases, which contributes to ending impunity (Kelly, 2003).


Specialized Prosecutor Units Improve Access to Justice in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, international and governmental organizations have founded specialized prosecutor units which focus on crimes of violence against women and girls under the 2009 Elimination of Violence Law. The first unit was formed in Kabul in 2010 and consisted of eleven prosecutors who received special training on gender justice. In the first year they prosecuted nearly 300 cases, usually of assault or rape, and prosecutions doubled from the first to last month of the initial year. The Kabul Unit also formed a network of victim support services with shelters, health, and educational resources in order to facilitate their use by women and girls. Its success prompted the Afghan Attorney General and international governments and organizations to open a second specialized unit in Herat in 2011. 


Source: International Development Law Organization. 2011. Le Bureau du Procureur Général et L’OIDD Lancent Une Unité De Lutte Contre la Violence à L’Encontre des Femmes dans la Province de Herat, en Afghanistan.


Using specially-designated prosecutors

Training specially-designated individual prosecutors, who are trained on the dynamics of violence against women is a useful strategy when establishing specialized units is not feasible. Also, using vertical prosecution is another strategy in managing case assignment. With vertical prosecution, the same prosecutor is assigned to the case from beginning to end. Benefits of vertical prosecution include: