EUPOL COPPS advocates for reform of criminal sanctions in Palestine

At a workshop for 17 officials working in Palestine’s Ministry of Justice, EUPOL COPPS advisers presented the Finnish and Swedish approaches to dealing with criminals and underlined the important role that non-custodial sanctions can play in rehabilitating lawbreakers and preventing future crimes. The group of Palestinian officials have been tasked by the Ministry of Justice to look at ways in which Palestine’s penal code can be revised to integrate international best practices.

“The philosophy that guides sanctioning in Sweden and Finland emphasises that policy should try as much as possible to contribute to rehabilitating criminals and preventing them from reoffending,” said Lina Zettergren, a Swedish judge working at EUPOL COPPS as a Senior Criminal Justice Expert. “Prison sentences are appropriate for serious and violent crimes, but in the case of minor crimes, time in prison may even turn petty offenders into hardened, lifelong criminals. Sanctioning policy should ideally reflect the most up to date research in how to best protect society from criminality”.

Alternative sanctions for non-violent crime used by Finland and Sweden, which were explored during the workshop, include suspended sentences, in which an offender avoids prison as long as they don’t reoffend, juvenile sentences, community service and monitoring sentences. The justice system tries to identify the underlying causes behind criminal acts, and will mandate psychological therapy and/or programmes to deal with substance abuse, if these are considered contributing factors in the crime.

EUPOL COPPS will continue to support the Palestinian group overseeing revisions to the penal code. Further workshops and meetings are planned in the coming months.