Essay Essentials Forensic Expertise. About the Ideal of an NFI – Handbook on Forensic Expertise

“Alfa-Bèta-Circle”, Ills. Hans Jakobs, 2020

Introduction

This essay [1] is an unorthodox attempt to write a handbook on forensic expertise [2]. My intention is to bring about a real improvement of understanding for all criminal justice professionals, the “users of forensic expertise” in criminal procedure; in my opinion a timeless and very useful ideal.

In the light of my recent attendance at trials of 24 Dutch criminal cases it has become clear to me that, in almost every criminal case, a greater understanding and clearer explanation is desirable of natural sciences as practiced in technical laboratory research and executed on traces within the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) in the truth-finding process in criminal law. The name for this kind of research into traces as part of the criminal process is Criminalistics.

Criminalistics is the natural scientific aspect of the forensic sciences. It focuses on natural scientific research on evidence on behalf of truth-finding in criminal law. And It is directed towards the significance of the results of such research for that truth-finding. [3]

The explanation of an expert in court (art. 339, paragraph 1, sub 4), and the expert’s report, the written documents (art. 339, paragraph 1, sub 5 ) are the two different kinds of legal evidence, regarding the expert. Limited to these and combined with the judge’s own observations, the declarations of the suspect, and the declarations of a witness (art.339, paragraph 1, sub 1, 2, and 3), these five constitute the – limited – means of legal evidence as recognized in the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure.
Even though forensic research is also carried out by other authorities, such as the Police, (semi) private institutes, – laboratories, – individuals and Universities, I have decided to take the NFI as my starting-point, for two reasons:

1. In 2020 the lion’s share of the forensic research concerning traces in connection with criminal offences in the Netherlands is still executed – on a high scientific level – by the NFI.
This research is commissioned by the Public Prosecution Office at the stage of investigation and prosecution, at the request of the examining magistrate / inquiry judge, the judge and, in some cases, also at the request of the defence.

2. In 1995 I had the privilege of being allowed to initiate and draw up a book of reference [4] about forensic expertise as practiced then by the predecessors of the NFI, called ‘The Forensic Laboratories’. I distinguished at the time 31 areas of expertise, and in close cooperation with 31 experts a powerful source of knowledge was created at the service of the sitting and standing magistracy, and recommended as literature for the Police Academy.

After 25 years, in my view, it is now the right time to redefine the current conditions for a better understanding of the forensic kinds of expertise in the shape of:
A Blueprint, describing the essentials of background-knowledge, theory, practice and science, for each field of expertise.

In order to illustrate the importance of a systematic composition of a reference book and a textbook about forensic expertise, I have arranged the arguments into four groups.
A. Why? Finding reasons,
B. What? Table of contents, strengthening the beta-sciences and techniques,
C. How? Method, describing essentials in the connecting Blueprint,
D. What for? Improving the understanding of the target audiences and thus enlighten the criminal procedure.

A. Why? Finding reasons.

Signals from the Dutch criminal trials  2014-2019

From the end of 2014 to 2020 Ir. Huub Hardy [5] and myself were present at 24 heavy criminal cases in Dutch courts and tribunals [6] [Appendix 1 Dutch Criminal Cases]. We made an inventory, a close analysis and minutes of the cases. These criminal cases were selected on the basis of the role of the experts in the proceeding. In such trials, more often than not, the judicial experts were physically present and made declarations in court.

My focus in these cases was on the communication, i.e. the dialogues between experts and lawyers, as I heard them in court and saw them with my own eyes. I made notes from which lawyers’ needs in practice were found and from which lawyers’ wishes could be distilled.

In 9 of the 24 criminal trials (almost 38 %) judges, public prosecutors and barristers asked clearer literal explanations from the experts, specifically linguistic, such as: ‘no jargon please’, ‘clearer terminology’, ‘layman language please’, ‘what is the meaning of’, ‘report is hard to read’, ‘what precisely do you mean’, ‘closer explanation please’.

In 17 of the 24 criminal trials (almost 71 %) experts turned up in court. Judges, public prosecutors and barristers asked them intensively, not only about their use of language, but also, at length, about the significance of working methods and skills, and about the professional background and experience of the expert.

The lawyers, usually alpha-trained, put many probing questions to the forensic experts (who had usually been trained in beta science or in technique) such as:
* what is the background-science of this expertise?
* how do the various methods of expertise / research operate?
* how do the underlying instruments and apparatus function in this expertise?
* can you explain the difference in research on the source-level [7] and on the activity-level [8] ?
* what is the meaning of contamination [9] and secondary transfer [10] ?
* what is the background-science of this expertise ?
* explanation new – recently developed- forensic techniques?
* explanation of Bayes Theorem [11] with the use of hypotheses, formulated in the conclusions of the forensic reports,
* what is the training, the experience, the background and the CV of the expert?

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Would A Bobi Wine Presidential Victory Bring Freedom And Prosperity To Uganda?

Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu—better known to the public as Bobi Wine—is a singer turned politician who is currently campaigning in the January 2021 general election to oust Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni who has been in power for more than 30 years.

Bobi Wine, with a widespread following and popularity among a significant segment of the Ugandan population, has emerged as a strong challenger to Museveni. As a musician, many of Wine’s songs take a socially conscious tone by speaking out against poverty, and in favor of freedom and democracy for Ugandans. Wine grew up in one of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods in the capital city of Kampala and his rise from poverty to being a successful singer, and then an elected Member of Parliament, has been viewed as an inspiration to many of his followers who regard him as ‘the Ghetto President’.

Since Wine’s election as Member of Parliament in 2017, he strongly opposed authoritarian measures imposed by Museveni such as the President’s decision to remove age limits and Wine publicly rallied against the President’s decision to impose a social media tax to stifle opposition towards him on WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter.
During this time, Wine also created a national movement called “People Power”— a movement consisting of, as The Economist describes, “a messy coalition of established politicians, frustrated graduates, and the hustlers of his ghetto hinterland.”
The purpose of the movement is to bring awareness to Museveni’s improper governance and to challenge conventional politics. In response to Wine’s public demonstrations against Museveni, Wine has been subjected to state-sanctioned torture and repeated arrest. Most notably, in August 2018, allegedly on the orders of President Museveni, the Ugandan Security Forces fired live bullets into a crowd of Wine supporters, killed Wine’s personal driver, invaded the hotel that Wine was staying in and proceeded to arrest and subsequently torture him and his colleagues.

On July 24 th , 2019, Wine announced his bid to run for president in the 2021 general election. In July 2020, Wine announced himself as the leader of the rebranded and previously obscure political party, the National Unity Platform (NUP). The formation of such a party, with its conventional structure and authority over candidates, comes in contradiction with the spirit of Wine’s People Power movement aimed at challenging conventional politics. In addition, it has been reported that Wine’s new party has engaged in transactional politics. For instance, Derrick Ssonko, who is a mechanic, felt inspirited to run for local councilor, “but the party ticket went to a rival who paid a bribe. He worries that the NUP is ‘old wine in new bottles’ even though everyone he knows will vote for it.”

During his Presidential campaign, supporters of Wine have been met with police violence. In November, 54 people were killed as supporters called for the release of Wine from detention.
Wine had been arrested at a campaign rally. Uganda’s security forces have routinely prevented Wine from attending his campaign rallies and the President has prevented Wine from appearing on TV and radio stations. Most recently, the United States’ Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, publicly condemned tactics within Uganda to suppress free and fair elections. In addition, Eliot Engel, the chairperson of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has requested that the US impose sanctions on several Ugandan security officials in response to “a worsening of human rights in the country.” In order to prevent Museveni from rigging the election, Wine has said that he hopes for an overwhelming turnout at the ballot box to make it difficult for Museveni to do so.

Uganda consists of a nation where 80% of the population is under the age of 35, and for these individuals, Bobi Wine brings a great deal of hope for a better life. The disparity in the demographics has created a generational divide whereby Museveni is viewed as unpopular among the youth but is viewed as popular among older rural voters who view regime change as “a hauntingly perilous idea”—linking such change to the years of bloody horror that preceded Museveni.
However, it must be met with cautious optimism whether, as a politician, Wine would be able to deliver on his promises or whether Wine’s victory would mean a continuation of corrupt politics. In Wine’s campaign manifesto he states, “Our promise to the youth of Uganda, we shall ensure we find meaningful employment for you. We want to create at least 5 million jobs. We shall invest in technology and a massive scale of industrialization……A vote for NUP is an assurance that citizens will never be persecuted for disagreeing with the government. A vote for NUP is a vote for the protection of our natural resources as a country which Gen. Museveni now treats as his personal wealth. A vote for NUP is a vote for the closing of the income gap between the rich and the poor…. Our promise to all Ugandans is that we shall safeguard their land. We shall put an end to the enormous scale of land grabbing. If it is done, justice must prevail… The National Unity Platform is committed to working with all Ugandans to improve their lives. We believe that immediately after taking over government, every Ugandan from Kaabong to Kisoro, from Yumbe to Busia will experience meaningful change in their way of life……”

Despite such progressive electoral promises, it remains publicly unclear as to how Bobi Wine proposes to accomplish them. Wine’s political headquarters has images of pan-African heroes like socialist leader Thomas Sankara, but Wine has also been known to collaborate with free-market thinktanks. Wine said that his goal is to rebuild public institutions and end decades of personalized rule, but Wine himself has also said, “I don’t have a very radical programme.” In President Museveni’s first year in office, he published a book entitled, “What’s Africa’s Problem?”—in which he stated, “The problem of Africa, in general, and Uganda in particular, is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power.” Bobi Wine’s call for freedom, democracy, and prosperity for Ugandans were the same political views that Museveni had once politically embraced long ago, but gradually, with time, Museveni became a corrupt authoritarian leader—if Bobi Wine won, would he be capable of ending the repetition of that authoritarian cycle?

Pitasanna Shanmugathas is a second year MGA student. During his undergraduate studies in political science and criminology at the University of Toronto, Pitasanna volunteered with the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, primarily providing support to refugees fleeing persecution in their native countries. Pitasanna is the director of a social media group, consisting of over 2,500 members, that speaks out against past and ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka carried out by both state and non-state actors — as director Pitasanna has interviewed Sri Lankan politicians, journalists, and activists to bring greater awareness to the country’s ethnic tensions and human rights abuses. In 2017, Pitasanna launched a petition, which was later introduced in Parliament, calling on the Trudeau government to accept Rohingya refugees into Canada. His career goals include working with organizations to protect the rights of refugees and minority communities and advocating for constitutional reform in nations besieged by conflict.

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Essay Essenties Forensische Expertise. Over het ideaal van een Handboek Forensische Expertise

‘’Alfa-Bèta-Cirkel’’, Ontwerp Hans Jakobs, 2020

Inleiding

Met dit essay [1] wil ik een onorthodox voorstel doen tot het vervaardigen van een handboek forensische expertise [2] . Mijn intentie is een echte begrip-verbetering te bewerkstelligen bij alle juridische professionals, bij alle ‘gebruikers van forensische expertise’ in de keten van het strafproces; mijns inziens een tijdloos en zeer nuttig ideaal.

 

Naar aanleiding van recente zitting-bezoeken aan 24 Nederlandse strafzaken waarin deskundigen een belangrijke rol speelden, is mij – in nagenoeg iedere strafzaak – gebleken dat meer begrip en duidelijker uitleg gewenst is van binnen het Nederlands Forensisch Instituut (NFI) gepraktiseerde natuurwetenschappelijk en technisch laboratoriumonderzoek, dat aan sporen wordt verricht, ten dienste van de waarheidsvinding in het strafrecht.

Dit sporenonderzoek in het kader van het strafproces wordt ook wel criminalistiek genoemd. Criminalistiek is het natuurwetenschappelijk deel van de forensische wetenschappen. Het richt zich op natuurwetenschappelijk onderzoek aan bewijsmateriaal ten behoeve van waarheidsvinding in het strafrecht. En het richt zich op de betekenis van de resultaten van zulk onderzoek voor die waarheidsvinding [3] .

De verklaring van een deskundige ter terechtzitting (art. 339, lid 1 sub 4) en het deskundigenrapport, de ‘schriftelijke bescheiden’ (art. 339, lid 1 sub 5) zijn de twee wettige bewijsmiddelen, die de deskundige regarderen ten aanzien van zijn bijdrage aan het bewijs. Samen met: eigen waarneming van de rechter, verklaringen van de verdachte en verklaringen van een getuige (art. 339, lid 1, sub 1, 2 en 3), zijn dit – limitatief – de vijf wettige bewijsmiddelen, die worden erkend in het Wetboek van Strafvordering.

Ondanks dat er in ons land ook forensische expertise wordt verricht door andere instanties, zoals de Politie, (semi) private instituten, – laboratoria en – personen en universiteiten, wil ik om twee redenen het NFI als mijn uitgangspunt nemen:

1. Anno 2020 wordt het leeuwendeel van gerechtelijke onderzoeken aan sporen in verband met strafbare feiten in Nederland nog immer – op hoog wetenschappelijk niveau – door het NFI verricht; in opdracht van het Openbaar Ministerie tijdens de opsporings- en vervolgingsfase, op verzoek van de rechter-commissaris, de rechter en in voorkomende gevallen ook ten dienste van de verdediging, op verzoek van de advocaat.

2. Anno 1995 heb ik het voorrecht gehad om een naslagboek [4] te mogen initiëren en redigeren over gepraktiseerde forensische expertise binnen de toen nog ‘’Gerechtelijke Laboratoria’’ genaamde voorgangers van het NFI.
Met betrekking tot de toen door mij onderscheiden 31 diverse deskundigheidsgebieden, is in solide samenwerking met 31 experts, destijds een krachtige kennisbron ontstaan ten dienste van de staande en de zittende magistratuur, wat tevens is aanbevolen als leerboek voor de Politie Academie.

 

Na 25 jaar acht ik de tijd rijp voor een actuele en gestructureerde herdefiniëring van voorwaarden ter beter begrip van de forensische deskundigheden, in de vorm van een:
Blauwdruk, die de essenties beschrijft van achtergrondkennis, theorie, praktijk en wetenschap, per expertise.

Ter illustratie van de importantie van een systematische samenstelling van een naslag- en leerboek over forensische expertise heb ik de volgende argumenten-vierdeling gemaakt:
A. Waarom: de redengeving, het vinden van redenen,
B. Wat: de inhoudsopgave, het versterken van bètawetenschappen en technieken,
C. Hoe: de methode, het beschrijven van de essentie in de verbindende Blauwdruk,
D. Waartoe: het verbeteren van het begrip van de doelgroepen.

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Eutopia Institute of Ideas ~ On Middle East, Diversity & Democracy

Developing and challenging new ideas on democracy, middle east, religion and transnational citizenship related to art and politics by multi-media works, (e-)print publishing and related e-magazines and by organizing public and professional meetings.

Eutopia concentrates on a variety of political and cultural issues, including the dialog between the Middle East and the West and developments linked to multiculturalism and the Muslim community in the Europe. Its global perspective is crucial.

For its activities Eutopia draws on an extensive network of freelancers, both at home and abroad, including philosophers, scientists, writers, journalists, artists etc. Eutopia’s good reputation is in fact partly based on its extensive network of contributors.

Eutopia is geared in particular – but not exclusively – towards dialog between North and South, as well as between Europe and the Islamic world. In addition, Eutopia aims to foster a concern for identity and intellectual development among young (migrant) individuals and to raise the quality of their input in European debates on social, cultural and political issues.

Eutopia concentrates on three core activities:
Eutopia E- Magazine: an international window on politics, culture and art.
Eutopia Live: lectures and workshops by and with artists and intellectuals; events and discussions about popular culture, film, literature and music.
Eutopia Academy: international exchange, conferences, networking and consultancy for cultural institutions.

Eutopia’s history and objectives
Eutopia, based in Amsterdam, was set up in 2002 by the sociologists Farhad Golyardi and Shervin Nekuee. Both Eutopia Magazine, of which so far twelve issues have appeared, and the Eutopia Live lectures and seminars have meanwhile found a niche of their own in Dutch cultural life. These activities are realized in collaboration with a great variety of local and nationwide institutions, including De Balie, De Unie, University of Amsterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam, ISIM, Forum, Hivos, and the city of Amsterdam and the city of Rotterdam.

In general, Eutopia pursues closer collaboration with universities, governmental agencies and cultural institutions and foundations. Moreover, in the past few years, Eutopia has set up an extensive international network of scholars, authors, thinkers and artists in diaspora, many of whom are refugees. They provide major contributions to global intercultural dialogs and the formulation of new views about the dynamic of culture, identity and politics.

Eutopia aspires to develop into a more comprehensive interdisciplinary platform or institute that both nationally and internationally stimulates intercultural dialog in the areas of politics, science, culture and art. As such it fully follows in the prominent Dutch cultural tradition of politics and religious tolerance, which has spawned great thinkers such as Spinoza and Erasmus.

Eutopia is committed to promoting the debate on multicultural affairs in the Netherlands from a European and international perspective. What is the position of the Netherlands with respect to other European and immigration countries? Which social or cultural developments elsewhere have particular relevance for the Netherlands as an evolving multicultural society?

Go to: https://eutopiainstitute.org

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George Orwell – Politics And The English Language

“Politics and the English Language” (1946) is an essay by George Orwell that criticised and ended the “ugly and inaccurate” written English of his time and examines the connection between political orthodoxies and the debasement of language.

The essay focuses on political language, which, according to Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”. Orwell believed that the language used was necessarily vague or meaningless because it was intended to hide the truth rather than express it. This unclear prose was a “contagion” which had spread to those who did not intend to hide the truth, and it concealed a writer’s thoughts from himself and others. Orwell encourages concreteness and clarity instead of vagueness, and individuality over political conformity.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_and_the_English_Language

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‘Limits’ Of Imagining The Pandemic Present

Michel Foucault 1926 – 1984  Photo: wikipedia.org

In 1984, Michel Foucault, the French historian (or) philosopher, associated with the  structuralist (or) post-structuralist movement, extensively commented [i] on the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant’s ‘Was ist Aufklarung?’ (What is Enlightenment?). Thus, two hundred years hence, Foucault knocked at the limits of moments we live through. For him, Kant is responding in the Berlinische Monatsschrift (Berlin monthly, 1784- November), a late enlightenment mouthpiece, on what should be the attitude to present.

The moment we live in was, for Kant, neither a distinct era, not a transition, but rather a grand exit (Ausgang). For Kant majority of human beings, in the time he wrote in (1700s end or 1800s beginning as the case may be), carried on their everyday life with the church and monarchy setting the rhythms. The autonomy to break the rhythm or to think about the present, and thus make the exit, was difficult then, as it is now. For Foucault Kant was to work on the ‘limits’ of the rhythm and the everyday in order to ‘Ausgang’ and reflect on what he was part of.

With the coordinates of daily rhythms overwhelmingly set by the virus and its trajectories, it has become even tougher to separate ourselves from the contingent contexts we are thrown into everyday. The possibility of thinking separate from the frames we are set against, and reflecting on our ‘makes’, will determine not only how we reflect on the times we live in, but also the way we live out.

People across space and time have transformed to cyborgs – the sciences; technological artifacts; institutional orders; as well as disseminations of knowledge literally imbricate lived lives. Risk societies, urban informalities, everyday precarities, techno-social deployments, or surveillance and pastoral orders have scaled our skins and rewired our bodily rhythms. The cyborg identities in their everyday relationship with other cyborgs, with differential make-ups determine the truth orders that govern.
Foucault comes back to haunt the ‘pandemic orders in the making’ prompting an engagement with the limits. Nothing short of a critical ontology of the cyborgs we are, deployed and networked across space and time, by the political every day, can achieve this. Only this can translate into a possibility or impossibility to imagine the limits that are imposed on us by the political systems, exaggerated by the pandemic.

The possibility of knocking at the limits for instance, might come at best as a tragic reflection during the physical ejection of the urban migrant labourer in India from the metropolis. This is not quite an exit and neither does one see the space or time to reflect on the exploitative order that had appropriated him/her along with millions of others as urban cyborgs. A Lebanese Druze leader who has seen the end of a world war, been through a three month war, or the civil wars; still might only see at best an end of the world because the pandemic has only added on to the noise of everyday violence and earth shattering explosions. The fortified corona shelters that the bus bays have transformed into in a hyper vigilant South Korea or a health care regime that fell apart on the corporate altars in the United States also differentially reduce the space of reflection or eventual exit. A self righteous regime like the one in Brazil that would rather bank on military men than people of science; or the celebrations of self sufficiency (atmanirbhar in the Indian state context) when possibilities of social welfare gets precluded; also talk of the times that give no space for exit-thoughts or possibilities for reflection.

In order to critically reflect on the pandemic everyday and eventually for life to live itself out, there is no other way than exposing the conflicts and contradictions inherent to the orders people live in. There is no other way than to reflect on the ‘fixes’ put forward as part of the ‘presents’. Michel Foucault prompts us to knock at the limits once again. The task for the more privileged in places that still maintain social contracts with populations is to think with Foucauldian ‘dispositives’. These are the institutional, administrative, and knowledge structures that both maintain the systems in place and the homeostasis of the cyborg selves we all are. It is only by thinking through the links between practices, and institutional techniques deployed way before pandemics, but enhanced and perpetuated by the virus; that the cyborgs can get deconstructed across places readying for a political present that is yet to be lived into.

Note
[i] What is Enlightenment? in Rabinow (P.), ed., The Foucault Reader, New York, Pantheon Books, 1984:32-50.

Mathew A Varghese, SIRP, Mahatma Gandhi University [Previously Researcher at University of Bergen/ UKZN]

 

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