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Posted Oct. 23, 2009

Establishing Rule of Law Means Building Relationships, Nachbar Says

Thomas Nachbar

Establishing the rule of law after a military intervention is increasingly about relationship building and less about institutional improvements, said Professor Thomas Nachbar, who spoke to students Tuesday during a J.B. Moore Society of International Law event.

“A lot of people think that rule of law is all about getting the criminal justice system going,” he said. “But that’s a limiting understanding of what the rule of law is about and will cause you to miss out on a lot of legitimacy of the legal system. Rule of law is a process — a relationship — as much as it is an outcome.”

This is a trend away from what some might call a “courts, cops and corrections,” mentality of the law, or a very austere, security-related approach.

Nachbar, who serves in the U.S. Army Reserve as a captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, stressed the importance of communication.

“Not only spending a lot of time with judges, but getting the judges to talk to the local police commander. That’s what people are actually doing now.”

Nachbar summarized the current trend by holding up the three rule of law manuals published by the Judge Advocate General.

In 2007 “we designed [the cover] specifically to be ‘courts, cops and corrections,’” he said, showing photos of a courthouse, a police officer and a prison.

The 2008 book shows a uniformed local with an American in the background — the host nation is doing more of the groundwork.

On the 2009 cover, “We’ve evolved to where there are no Americans — it really is the nation doing so much more of it.”  

“That’s the way the programs evolve,” he said, “you try to do less and less intervention over time.”

By ellen daniels