|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/CP/374|
|ROUND-UP OF SESSION||Release Date: 18 April 2000|
United Nations Crime Congress Concludes
In Vienna by Adopting its Report
Hears Final Statements
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)
VIENNA, 17 April -- The Tenth United Nations Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders concluded in Vienna this afternoon following the adoption of its report to the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (which meets beginning tomorrow, 18 April) and the reports of its two Main Committees.
In a concluding statement, Congress President Penuell Mpapa Maduna (South Africa) declared that the real test of delegates’ work lay in the implementation of the decisions and recommendations of the Congress. It did not benefit the citizens of the world for the delegates to produce documents and agreements that would remain on paper only.
The Secretary-General of the Congress, Pino Arlacchi, said he was struck by the frequency of language in the Declaration reflecting the intention to work together. The desire to act globally was absolutely clear. A look at arms trafficking, corruption, money laundering and trafficking in human beings made clear that no State alone could hope to find solutions. “Just as criminal groups have globalized their actions, so must we”, he said.
On Saturday, 15 April, the Congress adopted a “Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice” at the conclusion of a two-day high-level segment. Under terms of that document, the Congress expressed its determination to accord high priority to the completion of a draft United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols on the trafficking of firearms and people, including migrants. It also stressed the urgent need to develop an effective separate international legal instrument against corruption.
The Congress also stressed the importance of intensifying cooperation in the areas to be covered by those instruments, and of strengthening the existing machinery in that respect. Member States undertook to take measures to prevent and combat terrorism and to fight other forms of transnational organized crime, including illegal trafficking in people, computer crimes, and financial offences, including money laundering. They
stressed the need for mutual legal assistance to curb illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, and set the year 2005 as the target for achieving a significant decrease in firearms incidence worldwide.
The Declaration is contained in the final report of the Congress, which was adopted this afternoon without a vote, with minor oral amendments. The report also includes the conclusions and recommendations of the Congress; a brief account of the events leading to the convening of the Congress; a summary of the deliberations in the plenary and in the two Main Committees; and reports of the Conference’s high-level segment and of the Credentials Committee.
The Congress, which opened in Vienna on 10 April, was attended by delegations from 119 countries, according to the Credentials Committee’s report. Seventy-six Ministers and other high-ranking government officials addressed the high-level segment of the Congress, which was devoted to international cooperation in combating transnational organized crime. Several non-governmental organizations and observers also took part in the event.
The President of the Congress, Penuell Mpapa Maduna, Minister of Justice of South Africa, made a closing statement, as did Congress Secretary-General Pino Arlacchi, who is also Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
Mr. ARLACCHI said the real test of delegates’ work lay in the implementation of the decisions and recommendations of the Congress. It did not benefit the citizens of the world for the delegates to produce documents and agreements that would remain on paper only.
Noting that the Declaration included strong support for the Center for International Crime Prevention, he said that the document’s encouragement of the Center’s global programmes would serve as an inspiration and hopefully translate into the resources needed for the success of those programmes. The support generated by the Congress would give added momentum to the final drafting, signature and ratification of the landmark Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.
Mr. MADUNA (South Africa), Congress President, said that corruption continued to be a major problem threatening social, economic and political development, as well as undermining democracy. The development of an international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, had become more urgent.
He said the Congress had helped to establish a framework of national and international mechanisms to effectively deal with crime. The unanimous adoption of the Vienna Declaration by the Congress’ high-level segment signified a political and practical commitment to fight crime at all its levels and in all its manifestations.
Documents before Crime Congress
The report on the consideration of agenda items in the plenary of the Congress states that the participants strongly reaffirmed the importance of international cooperation in the prevention and control of transnational organized crime. In that respect, the United Nations should act as a catalyst. There was a broad consensus that the draft United Nations convention on transnational organized crime could be an effective tool, and speakers sought an early adoption of that instrument. They also urged States to take the necessary measures to ensure the implementation of the convention within the framework of their national legal systems.
Committee I Report
The report of Committee I covered the issues allocated to it by the Congress, including the promotion of the rule of law; effective crime prevention; and offenders and victims in terms of the accountability and fairness of the criminal justice system.
On the topic of “Promoting the rule of law and strengthening the criminal justice system”, Committee I concluded that effective implementation was needed for the law to be accepted and respected by both civil society and those administering criminal justice. That could be promoted through community involvement at the grass-roots level. The Committee also identified some problems facing the implementation of law, including limited financial resources, lack of adequate personnel and facilities, judicial and institutional resistance and the need for profound changes in attitudes and practices.
Participants recognized the crucial importance of international cooperation, the report states. Especially for many developing countries and countries with economies in transition, technical assistance was essential for making the rule of law a reality and for strengthening criminal justice systems. Governments were urged to deal with the underlying causes of crime and to study the causes of breakdowns in justice. Reform plans should take into consideration the two prerequisites for the rule of law: an effective and impartial justice system; and open, transparent and accountable government.
On the subject of keeping pace with new developments for effective crime prevention, the Committee stressed integration of crime prevention into social policy and called on governments to develop an integrated strategy for crime prevention, based on social development and law enforcement. The Committee stressed the need to protect all members of society, including the most marginalized persons, and to take extra measures to protect those most at risk.
The Committee stressed the importance of promoting human values and respect for the rule of law. As sustainable security was a basic condition for sustainable development, Member States, through the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, were urged to promote exchange of information and technical assistance for crime prevention. At the same time, it called for legal instruments to be developed to combat transnational organized crime. The Committee also stressed proper balance between enforcement and prevention, as well as protection of human rights.
Reporting on “Offenders and victims: accountability and fairness in the justice process”, Committee I concluded that growing interest in victims was partly due to the increased attention to restorative justice, which had, in turn, received a substantial impetus from the penal crisis of recent years. While not all participants regarded restorative justice as a paradigm shift for criminal justice, there was consensus with regard to its desirability.
Regarding the rights of offenders, the report states, no firm conclusions were drawn on the advisability of giving the victim a final say in decisions on prosecution, early release and parole. Neither were firm conclusions reached on whether it was preferable to allow the victim to provide information to the criminal justice authorities that could be taken into account when taking such decisions.
According to the report, no conclusions could be drawn on what would happen if rights were not observed; what recourse the offender or victim had; and how victims and offenders learned about their rights and what they knew. Some participants called for further consideration of transnational victimization, a discussion that could focus on the problems raised by difficulties in language, cultural discrepancies and unfamiliarity with foreign legal procedures.
Committee II Report
The report of Committee II contains information about a series of workshops on important legal matters before the Congress.
The workshop on combating corruption stressed the importance of transparency, independence and integrity of investigative and subsequent criminal justice processes. There was consensus on the need to strengthen the role of civil society, and the need to address the questions of recovering the proceeds of corruption, proper investigation, prosecution and application of effective sanctions were highlighted in the discussion. The participants also stressed the potential value of drafting an international convention against corruption.
The workshop on women in the criminal justice system concentrated on women as offenders and prisoners, as well as victims and survivors. The participants agreed that victimized women and girls required the rights of protection and justice and that they should receive support to be reintegrated into the community. It was necessary to raise public awareness concerning women’s victimization, which should not be justified on cultural grounds.
The report further states that national criminal justice systems should focus on the abuser and the exploiter, and the role of facilitators in trafficking in women and girls should be recognized. Collective response to victimization of women should include indigenous solutions, utilizing existing structures and services. At the global level, it is necessary to pursue harmonized and coordinated strategies and correct the economic conditions that facilitate economic and sexual exploitation of women and girls.
The workshop on computer crimes addressed legal search and seizure of data from computer networks and tracing of computer communications, as well as the relationship between law enforcement and computer and Internet industries. The workshop concluded that it was necessary to criminalize computer-related crime and introduce adequate laws to investigate and prosecute cyber-criminals. Governments and the industry should work together against computer crime, and improved international cooperation was needed to trace criminals on the Internet. The United Nations should promote technical cooperation and provide assistance concerning computer crime.
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