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Prosecution in the Public Interest. 22nd Annual Conference Outcome



The 22nd IAP Annual Conference brought together prosecutors from every region of the world. 431 prosecutors from 99 states and territories were present. The goal was to strengthen the transnational communities of prosecutors and prosecution services and to strengthen our platforms for transnational cooperation, to raise the capacity of prosecutors in particular important areas of crime and punishment and to raise the awareness of the professional standards governing criminal justice. The delegates were deeply involved in the four day long professional programme. 160 speakers, chairs and rapporteurs facilitated 36 plenary and parallel sessions, workshops and roundtables. Furthermore, as a testament to the strong partnerships the IAP has with other international governmental and non-governmental organizations, the conference benefitted from co-sponsored workshops and sessions with the International Association of Judges, ICT4Peace, ICAR, Open Society Foundation, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 

The IAP Annual Conference serves as a productive forum for transnational legal cooperation. The Beijing conference hosted hundreds of formal and informal bilateral meetings, as the packed calendar of the available meeting rooms and the exchanges of contact information and signing of numerous MoUs serve to testify. It shows that the IAP is moving ahead towards its goal to have the annual conference to serve as an effective ‘one-stop-shop’ for prosecution services’ transnational legal cooperation arrangements.

The special theme of the 22nd IAP Annual Conference was ‘Prosecution in the Public Interest” and how we, as prosecutors, can adapt to global developments and maintain prosecution in the interest of the public. Three questions were addressed: How can we, in our investigation and in our prosecution work best respond to the increasing digitalization of public and private life, to the increasingly transnational nature of crime and to the fact that an ever-increasing proportion of people live in cities? The questions were framed and developed in the opening ceremony and session by the distinguished speakers Cao Jianming, Prosecutor General of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, P.R. of China, Zhang Dejiang, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), P.R. of China, the IAP President Gerhard Jarosch, the President of Interpol Meng Hongwei, and David Scharia, Chief of Branch, CTED, United Nations Security Council.

Mutual Legal Assistance

The work across borders and its new dimensions have been central to our activities throughout the year. Several of the conference sessions was dedicated to this important topic. In and of itself there is nothing new about the need to work across borders. The ‘new’ lies in 1) the drastic increase in cross border requests for mutual legal assistance (MLA), 2) the expanding and complex regulatory frameworks through which we operate, 3) the frequent simultaneous involvement of multiple jurisdictions in the securing of evidence, 4) the increasing need to involve non-state agencies in securing evidence. We will do well to recall that these changes are recent and that the technological advances relevant both to causes of this development and to potential solutions are no more than a decade old. We are very much in the beginning stages of finding the right solutions. One plenary speaker aptly described the “need to improve, and rethink, our models of international mutual legal assistance”. The first plenary session, three workshops and this year’s new MLA laboratory – open throughout the conference – dived into the challenges and possible solutions both in the short term and the long term. Among the important short term recommendations communicated by the MLA experts running the MLA laboratory, were the need to:

  • Streamline the process and interaction internally between prosecutors and Central Authorities
  • Increase the availability and use of technical assistance to MLA procedures both internally and transnationally
  • Increase the availability of user-friendly manuals for MLA
  • Enhance the constructive role of Central Authorities
  • Ensure early communication and engagement
  • Make effective use of professional networks

The outcome report of the MLA Laboratory and plenary session is included below.


The increasing digitalization of our lives affect most activities of prosecutors. The need for us all to adapt to this development is omnipresent. As is well demonstrated in several jurisdictions, the development is fast and we need to work in partnerships – also with the technology industries – to keep up and to ensure access to the necessary tools to prevent, to investigate and to bring cases to court. The question arises of how to arrange and manage these partnerships so to ensure accountable investigation and prosecution. Of equal importance is the digitalization of the administration of investigation, prosecution and judicial decision-making. The provocative title of one of the sessions, “Can prosecutors be replaced by artificial intelligence?” is in some ways more relevant than we tend to realise. Today, numerous software products that are capable of handling major and complex factual material as well as carrying out legal analysis, are available and employed by law firms worldwide. Many courts already employ software that perform risk assessments of individual offenders and patients (custody decisions). Linguistic software tools already assist prosecution services in some countries in direct translations and automatic report writing. It is difficult to see where this development ends and needless to say we need to keep up. But – and there is a but – as the plenary sessions made clear we also have to be very careful to retain the established principles of law and justice. It took centuries to develop the current principled approach to criminal justice and it requires hard work to maintain it. Big data, digitalization and the need for efficiency must not change that. As we adapt to the digital era we must bring with us established principles of law and justice.

Big Cities

A third global development concerns the increasing number of major cities. More than 50 % of the world’s population lives in cities and the number is growing. The conference brought particular attention to the challenges pertaining to identifying and representing the ‘public interest’ in an increasingly diverse and often conflicting public, and in setting up city prosecution services that manage to reach out to all geographical parts of cities and groups of people. One special workshop challenged the social technologies of handling radicalisation in big cities, in investigating security related crimes and ensuring trust in subgroups of populations.

Prosecution in the Public Interest

The conference brought together the many issues related to the ‘public interest’ in a keynote session on ‘public interest and prosecution’ and in the final session on ‘public interest, integrity and anti-corruption’. The sessions developed and facilitated discussions on how ‘public interest’ imposes a functional limit on the work of prosecution and requires a responsiveness to societal developments as well as to the complexities of diverse populations. The final sessions also gave examples of difficult cases of reflecting public interests in prosecution work. A crucial distinction between the role of prosecutors working on criminal cases versus their role in policy making was presented. Practicing prosecution should not be an extension of policy making but of legislation. At the same time, the prosecution service has a unique position to observe practical developments and practices in the justice system and an opportunity to inform policy-makers and legislators of these developments and practices and of their consequences for the functionality of the criminal justice system. In this way, prosecution services have a real ability to shape and influence the information that impact on public policy.

Special Interest Groups

Again, this year, the Annual Conference expanded its range of special workshops, giving specialist prosecutors a place to meet and discuss cutting edge developments and to come together around strengthening their global communities. Special workshops were facilitated in:

  • Cybercrime
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Environmental Crime
  • Military Prosecution
  • International Criminal Justice and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence
  • Trafficking of Persons
  • Anti-corruption, money laundering and asset recovery
  • Prosecutors’ Associations
  • Prosecutors’ Exchange Programme

The workshops are further described in the individual reports below.

This year, special attention was also paid to the respect for human rights and professional standards of prosecution and on how to bring standards to life. One session was arranged to discuss how to bring professional standards of prosecution services to life. Furthermore, one session took up the question of how to ensure integrity in prosecution services and the challenges of developing integrity standards and institutions to enforce them. Finally, one session brought together comparative research into the role of prosecutors during pre-trial stages and particularly pertaining to the prevention and investigation of torture. The individual session reports are provided below.

The input from the sessions, discussions and reports feed directly into the working programme of the IAP. Many of our special interest group have ongoing programmes and use the conference for ongoing projects. Of projects of more general nature that the IAP takes upon itself to focus on in the year to come are:

  • Further developing the IAP database with MLA contact points in IAP member prosecution services worldwide
  • Carry out the 3rd Siracusa specialization course
  • Continue the collaboration with global and regional partners to secure relevant and up-to-date practical tools for prosecutors
  • Prepare a draft guideline and/or a best practice collection on the appointment, tenure and removal from office of prosecutors

The individual reports from the plenary and parallel sessions are all available in the collected outcome reports, available for members here (link)

If you have any questions to the overall outcome report and professional programme, you are welcome to contact the IAP General Counsel, Rasmus H. Wandall (gc@iap-association.org).