DOJ/OPDAT Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Programs
Since the fall of communism and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the late '80s and early '90s, the countries of the Balkans and Southeast Europe have faced significant obstacles in establishing fully functioning criminal justice systems that support democratic governance and the rule of law. Beginning in the 1990s, OPDAT has provided partners throughout CEE with assistance designed to modernize criminal justice institutions and strengthen the rule of law, utilizing funding provided by the United States Department of State. OPDAT currently has bi-lateral assistance programs in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bi-H), Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and at the Southeast Europe Law Enforcement Center (SELEC, formerly known as the SECI Center), in Bucharest, Romania.
Organized crime and corruption are among the most significant obstacles that threaten the fragile, fledgling democracies throughout CEE. Combating these twin viruses constitutes the common denominator for all OPDAT CEE assistance programs. However, each bi-lateral program is tailored to meet individual host country needs. Each program thus focuses on a range of criminal justice and rule of law issues and employs variety of means to address these issues. For example, OPDAT is presently assisting Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia in developing or implementing new Criminal Procedure Codes (CPCs), the primary legislative instrument defining the manner by which crimes are investigated, prosecuted and adjudicated. Throughout CEE, these codes have been riddled with burdensome and antiquated procedures, leading to inefficiencies in the criminal justice process. Adoption of new or revised codes with modern and more efficient procedures - many borrowed from our common law or "adversarial" criminal justice systems - offers the promise of more transparency, clarity of roles for justice-sector actors, and far-reaching streamlining of the justice process.
The forfeiture of illicitly obtained assets remains one of the most effective tools in combating organized crime and corruption around the world. OPDAT has actively helped fortify asset forfeiture regimes throughout CEE. OPDAT also engages extensively in capacity-building activities for justice sector personnel throughout CEE, developing and delivering training on a wide variety of subject matter. Further, OPDAT-Kosovo has developed a unique, on-going partnership with the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EDNC), in which prosecutors and other law enforcement experts regularly travel to Kosovo to engage in capacity-building and mentoring. Kosovar justice sector officials have also regularly visited North Carolina under the partnership. The partnership with EDNC has enabled Kosovo to adopt plea bargaining as a regular practice designed to clear overloaded dockets and provide prosecutors with a tool to incentivize cooperation from individuals with knowledge of illicit criminal activity. Finally, victim assistance initiatives are being developed in both Kosovo and Albania with OPDAT assistance.