Addressing the Obstruction of Justice Worldwide

The obstruction of justice includes actions that hinder the legal system in its ability to identify, prosecute, and punish individuals, groups, or states who have committed crimes. Generally, the obstruction of justice is observed through actions such as bribery, intimidation, and the use of physical force against witnesses, prosecutors, judges, juries, and journalists, among others. Many states have laws that prohibit the obstruction of justice, but some lack the capacity or the will to consistently enforce these laws. Typically associated with organized crime, the topic of the obstruction of justice has come up in UN discussions in the past, such as during the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The obstruction of justice also includes offenses such as tampering with, concealing, or destroying evidence. Recent examples of this include allegations of evidence tampering in the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 crash in 2014, and allegations that Russia is attempting to destroy evidence of their recent military presence in Ukraine.

This topic is not merely a domestic issue. The obstruction of justice is sometimes committed by states on an international level, often in a response to human rights investigations and anti-corruption initiatives. Larger-scale political methods of obstruction are also prevalent. Offending states may attempt to use intimidation and coercion tactics by withdrawing support for international programs or attempting to sabotage the crime investigation efforts of global bodies such as the UN. However, it can be difficult to accurately identify political obstruction of justice, as perpetrators tend to veil their offenses under the guise of genuine policy changes.

How should the UN address the issue of the obstruction of justice worldwide? How should “obstruction of justice” be defined? How can more perpetrators be caught? How should the UN handle states that willingly allow or participate in the obstruction of justice? What resources should be made available to those who believe they are victims of the obstruction of justice? What direct role, if any, should the UN have in international obstruction of justice investigations? How can the UN help states that are unable to uncover and prosecute the obstruction of justice on their own?



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