UNODC continues its work on countering firearms trafficking in the Western Balkans through Project Justitia


On December 14, 2023, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched ‘Project Justitia’, a criminal justice initiative aimed at countering organized crime and illicit firearms trafficking in the Western Balkans to enhance the region’s criminal justice system effectiveness.

Project Justitia builds on the UNODC’s previous work from 2020 to 2023, primarily focusing on legislative improvements and strengthening judicial, prosecutorial and law enforcement capacities. Progress has been notable in several jurisdictions: North Macedonia and Montenegro have revised their criminal laws to comply with the UN Firearms Protocol. Meanwhile, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Serbia are advancing with the development of draft provisions for legislative reform. UNODC’s work has also resulted in improving the skills of criminal justice practitioners in investigating and prosecuting firearms trafficking. This involved training in areas like firearms identification, collection of electronic evidence and firearms tracing, with 281 professionals trained and a platform for exchanging best practices among 214 experts. UNODC’s work also focused on criminal procedural aspects, including the use of special investigative measures in firearms and organized crime cases. Additionally, UNODC underscored the importance of consistent court practices in firearms trafficking cases by developing six Firearms Case Law collections.

In North Macedonia UNODC established cooperation with the Academy for judges and prosecutors developing a partnership for continued training of prosecutors through the National Investigative guidelines for firearms-related cases that was developed in cooperation with the Academy during 2023 and it is based on the UNODC global guidelines. The global Guidelines will be used for the new candidates for Prosecutors in the general curriculum while the National Guidelines will serve the already established Prosecutors that want to increase their knowledge in the specific area of firearms related crime. During project Justicia the National Guidelines will be updated in accordance with the new amendments of the Criminal Code.

For the 2024-2025 period, Project Justitia has outlined clear objectives. These include enhancing the abilities of criminal justice institutions to draft effective laws, conduct thorough investigations, and prosecute cases involving organized crime and illicit firearms. Planned activities encompass organizing meetings for legislative harmonization, developing training courses, and supporting the application of special investigative measures. The work with judiciary is a significant component of the project and provides for continuous work on the firearms case law, harmonization of judicial practices taking into consideration the human rights standards.

With Project Justitia, UNODC is taking a significant step towards addressing the challenges of arms trafficking and organized crime in the Western Balkans, aiming for a more stable and secure region.