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This theme focuses on the interplay and tensions between the rule of law and criminal justice, the role of criminal law in preserving environmental sustainability, as well as issues raised by the norms, instruments and policies for combating crime in the digital era.

1. Interplay and tensions between the rule of law and criminal justice

Criminal law is a traditional bulwark of individual rights and the rule of law. But as (also recent) history shows, it is open to abuse in authoritarian settings, states in transition, and more generally societies faced with novel or familiar yet persistent threats such as cybercrime, drug offences, hate crime, migrant smuggling and human trafficking, money laundering, corruption, and terrorism. Moreover, the regular criminal justice route can be abandoned altogether in favor of extra‐judicial modalities of crime‐fighting and hyper‐militarised law‐enforcement if and when police action proves insufficient to curb organised and endemic crime. The war on drugs in the Philippines and the pacification of slums and urban gang warfare in Brazil can serve as examples. Furthermore, the misuse of criminal justice can take place beyond the state and be exported to the transnational legal context. Think of dubious Interpol red notices, politically motivated extradition requests, and risks posed by mutual recognition between states with varying degrees of commitment to democracy, human rights, and good governance. How can the erosive effects of abuse or obviation of criminal law on the rule of law be contained domestically? How can the export of such abuses to the transnational level be prevented and counteracted?

2. Combating crime in the digital era: new crimes, new forensics, new safeguards

The modern means of communication have long become indispensable in transnational criminal activities such as cybercrime, terrorism, financial crime, illicit arms trade, trafficking in drugs and in human beings, and organised crime. The Internet and social media (e.g. Facebook) have come to be used to interfere with constitutional processes, seed hatred and coordinate gross human rights violations and mass atrocities (e.g. Myanmar). The spillover of traditional crime into the virtual realm and the rise of new crime that only takes place in cyberspace has given criminal actors an edge over law‐enforcement which in many countries is still stuck in the analog age and struggles to keep up with technologically‐advanced criminality. How can criminal justice systems and inter‐state cooperation arrangements best tackle challenges posed by the globalisation and digitalisation of crime? Can the advantages offered by modern‐day technologies (digital, user‐generated evidence and special apps such as EyeWitness to Atrocities) enable law‐enforcement agencies to combat crime more effectively? What forensic techniques and methods should be used to collect and verify reliability and authenticity of digital evidence and how are the courts to decide on the admissibility and probative value of such evidence? What challenges do new technologies and digital proof pose for due process and other rights (e.g. privacy and data protection, freedom of thought and expression) and how can those challenges be addressed? How can new investigative techniques help to proactively combat and even prevent crimes that erode the rule of law?

3. Sustainability and crimes against the environment