The IAP held its annual conference and general meeting for the 19th time in Dubai, UAE. This was the first time that a Middle Eastern country hosted this prestigious event. Participant in the conference were welcomed by our hosts in splendid fashion and we were treated with the best that Dubai had to offer, against the magnificent backdrop of this extraordinary city.
The theme of this year’s conference was: “Best Prosecution Practice, Learning from each other. In line with the objectives of the IAP to, inter alia, “promote good relations between individual prosecutors and prosecution agencies; to facilitate the exchange and dissemination among them of information, expertise and experience”, the scene was set for a successful and rewarding experience to be had by all.
To lend grandeur to the opening ceremony, we were graced with the presence of His Highnes Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai as the conference were opened by His Excellency Counsellor Essam Essa Al Humaidan, Attorney General of Dubai and Gerhard Jarosh, IAP President.
One of the highlights of the conference was the awards and recognition given to prosecutors by the IAP. To be recognised by your peers on an international level is surely one of the best accolades any prosecutor can get. Prosecutors are exposed daily to high levels of stress and criticism, more often than not the dedication, passion and hard work go unnoticed. The well deserving recipients of awards were interalia the prosecuting team of the ‘Boeremag’ matter from South Africa
Down to the business of the conference, the first plenary: “The use of technology to improve prosecutions service” was addressed. The speakers put forward several innovative models and ideas as to how technology can enhance the level of service by prosecutors. During the conference, the Dubai Public Prosecutions introduced the ‘e-prosecutor’ or ‘virtual prosecutor’, a portable robot like device that can be placed in in remote areas. It gives the user direct access to prosecutors and prosecution services and alleviates the challenges of travelling distances and lack of resources in remote areas. The futuristic robot device is just one example of how technology can improve service delivery.
Special interest groups are one of the pillars of the success of the IAP. The participants in the meetings of the special interest groups enthusiastically embraced this exceptional opportunity to engage with international colleagues. This resulted in recommendations to the IAP members and secretariat to inter alia:
- Explore the creation and development of specialist virtual networks as need, demand and available resources allow, for example: network for counter terrorism prosecutors and network of practitioners on conflict related sexual violence crimes;
- Organisational members to ensure IAP contact points are authoritative and effective to facilitate and enhance the relationship between the membership of the IAP and to advance the engagement of their members and specialists within the IAP’s specialist websites;
- Promote the recognition and prosecution of hate crime/discriminatory crime through promulgation of OSCE/IAP guide on prosecution of hate crime and associated training;
- Promote the contribution of Prosecutor Associations organisational members towards advancing the objectives of the IAP and support a conference for Associations to be held under the auspices of the IAP.
The second and third plenaries :” Achieving excellence in prosecution service delivery’ and “Training, development and performance appraisal of public prosecutors and related workshops gave participants inspirational insights into programs and models successfully implemented without breaking the bank. From the inputs and presentations of the speakers, the underlying theme or golden thread was that we as prosecutors need to broaden our horizons and think outside the box. Excellence and success often needs an innovative idea, dedication and a holistic approach. Our partners in civil society are an untapped resource that can be used in achieving success. In evaluating performance, our failures can result in an opportunity to improve performance. The world that we live in creates heightened expectations from prosecutors. The ideas, models and programmes (available of the IAP website) presented are valuable resources available to prosecutors to meet these expectations.
“Dealing with youth offenders” was the last plenary of the conference. The unfortunate reality we are faced with is that the number of youth offenders escalates at an alarming rate. From the presentations during this plenary, it is crucial that prosecutors have to ‘put on a different cap’ in dealing with youth offenders. A holistic approach is needed to include preventative education, family and social intervention as well as innovative programmes to reform. As quoted during the session: “If an adult is judged with regard to his past, a minor should be judged with consideration to his future.”
During the conference, the IAP website in Arabic was launched. This is truly remarkable milestone and illustrates the growth and importance of the IAP within the international community. Furthermore, due to the platform created by the IAP, several bilateral meetings were held and agreements/ memoranda of understanding reached.
Another important achievement of this conference was the launch of the: The Status and Role of Prosecutors – United Nations Office on drugs and crime – International Association of Prosecutors Guide.
The conference presented several opportunities to liaise and network. The first of which was President’s reception at one of Dubai’s ionic landmarks, The Armani Hotel which is located at the foot of the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa, provided a perfect view over the world’s largest dancing fountains. The spirit of rekindling old friendships and connections within the IAP family and creating new ones added to the excitement and buzz of the evening. Exploring the Global Village, the leading outdoor amusement park of the region and considered one of Dubai’s most exciting and unique tourist destinations, was a perfect setting to interact with our hosts and other participants.
A highlight of the conference was the networking evening: “On desert safari”. Four wheel drive vehicles took participant to a campsite within the desert where an exclusive Arabic dinner was served within rows of special “Shamiyanahs” (Arabic tents) whilst guests were sitting on cushions surrounded by torches, date palm trees, camels and Arabic artefacts. Within this exotic ambiance, participant could meet, greet and network with each other.
At the closing session of the conference, I had the opportunity to reflect on not only the week’s experiences, but also on the value of the IAP conferences to prosecutors. The spirit of co-operation, sharing of expertise, solidarity and strive for excellence within our profession enriches the lives of all who participants. Within the IAP and during this week, you are part of a global family who all have the same goals and objectives: to provide the best prosecution service possible within our different communities and countries. I believe that every prosecutor should experience attending such a conference at least once in their lifetime: it is rewarding, enriching and life changing.
Elivera du Plooy: Chairperson of the Society of State Advocates of South Africa and a Senior State Advocate at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Gauteng Local Division, Johannesburg, South Africa.