The threat of acquiring, producing and disseminating radiological and nuclear hazardous materials for deliberate use has substantially increased over the past ten years. The lack of experience and awareness among law enforcement and judicial authorities, as well as prosecutorial and judicial teams, has been identified as the weakest link in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) safety and security. This gap may result, in some cases, in the loss of critical evidence and errors in the process of the successful prosecution of the identified perpetrators.
This breach was timely identified by subject matter experts after the completion of the project funded by the European Union which aimed at strengthening crime scene forensics capabilities to investigate CBRN Incidents. Consequently, UNICRI was tasked with coordinating the development of a series of guidance manuals (guides) and relevant training packages to support prosecutors and judicial authorities in bringing criminal cases from crime scenes contaminated with CBRN materials. This initiative was implemented as part of the EU Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (CoE). This ongoing project is a global Initiative funded and implemented by the European Union as part of its goal to promote peace, stability and conflict prevention. The aim of the initiative is to mitigate risks and strengthen all-hazards security governance in Partner Countries of the EU following a voluntary and demand-driven approach. Supported through the European Union’s Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) – Global Europe, the Initiative represents the EU’s largest civilian external security programme.
Representing an important contribution to CBRN risk mitigation, UNICRI and its partners initiated the development of the Prosecutor’s Guides and associated training modules. This initiative resulted in the issuance and dissemination of A Prosecutor’s Guide to Chemical and Biological Crimes, which played a central role in the development of capacity-building activities.
The second publication in this series of guidebooks is entitled A Prosecutor’s Guide to Radiological and Nuclear Crimes and is currently under development by UNICRI in close coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Nuclear Forensics Centre of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP).
The purpose of the Guide is to provide Investigators, prosecutors, and justice authorities, with guidance to support the successful prosecution of incidents involving the deliberate acquisition, stockpiling, production, transfer, use or misuse of radiological and nuclear materials. The Guide is a non-binding high-level guidance document, covering a wide spectrum of key elements necessary to bring the criminal case from the crime scene to the courtroom.
The final review meeting of the Prosecutor’s Guide to Radiological and Nuclear Crimes was organised on November 3rd 2023 in an online format. The high-level final review meeting not only provided a crucial opportunity to examine the ten chapters of the Guide but also served as an occasion to provide participants with an overview of the next steps in operationalising and integrating it as part of the professional duties of beneficiary end-users. Participants received the draft copy prior to the meeting and feedback was welcomed both before and after the review presentations.
A group of 30 experts representing partner international organisations, prosecution and justice authorities, law enforcement and investigative agencies, laboratories, forensics specialists, and relevant subject matter professionals worked to draft this guidance document. Several draft versions of the Guide were further disseminated to external experts, including key stakeholders and international organisations.
Over 40 participants attended the online review meeting including members of the core development team, UNICRI project team, external subject matter experts, regional CBRN forensics experts, and representatives from international organisations and stakeholders including the European Commission, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the European Union's Law Enforcement Agency (Europol), representatives of the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative and the South East and Eastern Europe Regional Secretariat.
The session commenced with the welcoming address from Mr. Francesco Marelli, Head of the CBRN Risk Mitigation and Security Governance Unit of UNICRI, followed by Mr. Balazs Maar, Programme Manager of the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) of the European Commission, and Ms. Margarida Goulart, Head of Unit of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). After the introductory remarks, Ms. Shenaz Muzaffer, General Counsel, at the International Association of Prosecutors, and a project subject matter expert shared her insights. This was followed by supporting remarks from Ms. Maria Lorenzo Sobrado, Head of the CBRN Terrorism Prevention Programme at UNODC, who also provided feedback as a primary stakeholder.
The introduction to the initiative and project’s historical background were presented by Mr. Talgat Toleubayev, Regional Coordinator of the CBRN Risk Mitigation and Security Governance Programme at UNICRI. A detailed chapter review was conducted by Mr. Mitchell Stern, the UNICRI’s Consultant responsible for collating and editing the Guide’s structure and content. The core team of subject matter experts, regional experts, and international organisations were recognized and thanked for their valuable contributions and dedication to the development of this crucial resource.
The online review session included opportunities for participants to provide high-level feedback and comments in relation to the content of the Guide. Verbal and written inputs were received, and comments were noted for consideration and eventual incorporation. Participants and experts were also encouraged to provide additional feedback to UNICRI. The finalised Guide is planned to be published after internal review and validation in early 2024.
The Prosecutors Guide to Radiological and Nuclear Crimes was well received by the international organisations involved which acknowledged its usability, relevance and timely application of the guide for prosecutors, investigative and judicial authorities. The review meeting concluded with a brief overview of the next steps aimed at operationalising and conducting practical capacity building and training components to further enhance the skills and capabilities of various end-users.