Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
    UNIS/CP/387
    14 December 2000
     
    President of Italian Parliament’s Anti-Mafia Commission
    Urges "Culture of Legality", Citizen Involvement

    Palermo Signing Conference for Transnational Organized 
    Crime Convention Hears 18 Speakers in Second Day of Discussions

    (reissued as received from an UN Information Officer)

       PALERMO, 14 December -- The High-level Signing Conference for the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime concluded this afternoon the second day of statements by government representatives, hearing 18 speakers, including the President of the Anti-Mafia Commission of the Italian Parliament. 

         The President of the Commission, Guiseppe Lumia, said that while the mafia had been attacked on all fronts, what was still needed was social promotion, the establishment of a culture of legality and the involvement of citizens.  Organized crime called for an organized transnational approach to fight it.  Safe havens and tax havens must disappear and no country should make the laundering of dirty money possible. 
     
         The Vice-Minister of External Affairs of Ecuador said he regretted it had not been possible to conclude negotiations for a protocol on the manufacture and trafficking of illicit firearms.  “While we recognize that this treaty is the one with the most major political implications, we believe that it is an indispensable instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime”, he said. 

         The Minister for Justice and Human Rights of Indonesia said that mutual legal assistance must never be employed as a means to bypass national legislation and domestic authority or even interfere with cases of a purely domestic nature.  Failure to respect such an important principle would obstruct the achievement of the objectives set out in the Convention and its two protocols. 

         The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of Ireland stated the Palermo Convention was unambiguous with regard to its purpose -- to promote cooperation and to prevent and combat transnational organized crime more effectively.  Organized criminals, however, were flexible.  As one avenue closed, they looked for new ones to explore.  There was no room for complacency and the international community must remain on its guard against that particular form of criminal activity.

         Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said many developing countries did not have the capacity to fully implement the Convention and its protocols.  He was therefore pleased that the Treaty contained provisions which would enhance capacity-building, technical assistance and the sharing of classified information among States parties. 

         Transnational organized crime by itself, with its potential power to undermine legitimate sectors of society and entire social, economic and political systems, demanded strong unequivocal responses, stated the representative of Philippines.  When it trampled on the humanity of citizens in the pursuit of profit, it must be met with a swift and fatal blow.  The battle against transnational organized crime did not culminate in a signing ceremony.  “We must intensify our efforts to effectively win this war by banishing crime from the face of the earth.”

        Government Ministers and representatives of Benin, Greece, Libya, Panama, South Africa, Viet Nam, Chile, Mexico, Cuba, Romania, Belgium and Monaco also made statements.
     
         The Conference will continue its discussions at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 14 December. 

         Conference Work Programme

         The High-Level Signing Conference for the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime met this afternoon to hear further statements by governmental representatives. 

         The new treaty, adopted by the General Assembly on 15 November, will enter into force after 40 countries have ratified it. 

         Statements

         Vice-Minister of External Affair of Ecuador, GONZALO SALVADOR:  The new global society has created possibilities for transnational organized crime to develop.  Such criminality thrives on the permeability of frontiers and technological changes and pays no attention to legal norms or the fundamental human rights of its victims. 

         Faced with this type of criminality, the international community reached a conclusion that if it is to effectively fight this social plague, it had to put a legal instrument in place.  This instrument would encourage cooperation among States, particularly among the legal and law enforcement agencies; and ensure that borders did not help criminals to elude justice.  The Convention and its protocols is this instrument. 

         Regrettably it has not been possible to conclude negotiations on a protocol on the manufacture and trafficking in illicit firearms.  While we recognize that this treaty is the one with the most major political implications, we believe that it is an indispensable instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime.  In pursuing their objectives, these illegal entities use firearms extensively.  The effectiveness of the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime will depend on the political will of States members.

         The Minister of Justice of Benin, JOSEPH H. GNONLONFOUN:  We are all very concerned by the nefarious phenomenon of transnational organized crime and its effects on the economic, social and political life of our peoples.  There is a need to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against organized crime.  When faced with negative international cooperation in the area of criminal activity, we have to counter that with positive international cooperation.  My country participated in the deliberations of the committee which negotiated the draft convention with consistent interest and welcomed the adoption of the Convention and its protocols.  When it comes to the protocol on the smuggling of migrants, we will need to become engaged in regional and sub-regional deliberations before we sign it. 

         The Convention is the first instrument to fight all kinds of criminal activity and, therefore, an effective tool for international cooperation in the fight against money-laundering, corruption, illicit trafficking in persons and terrorism.  Who today can state that corruption does not undermine the economies already weakened by structural adjustment programmes?  Who will be bold enough to admit that trafficking in human beings does not lead to their enslavement?  International cooperation is absolutely crucial.  It is in our interest to stand together in this struggle against transnational organized crime.  I hope that the draft protocol on firearms will be concluded quickly to curb the global trade in small arms, especially their flow into Africa.

         The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, SULE LAMIDO:  It is common knowledge that many developing countries may not have the capacity to implement fully the provisions of the Convention and its protocols, despite the best of intentions.  This is, in part because organized criminal groups, which operate within and across borders, have become increasingly more sophisticated, with ready access to the latest equipment.  They remain beyond the reach of official crime prevention agencies in developing countries.  We are pleased to note, therefore, that the Convention and its protocols contain provisions which will enhance capacity-building, technical assistance and the sharing of classified information among State parties. 

         It is a matter of grave concern to Nigeria that the protocol on illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms could not be concluded.  Organized crime cannot be properly addressed without such a protocol in view of the close correlation between unauthorized access to arms and organized crime.  In the West African sub-region, we have had the sad experience of losing more than 2 million people in the past 10 years, as a result of conflicts fuelled by the trafficking in small arms and light weapons.  Determined to curb their proliferation, we have established a moratorium in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the import, export or manufacture of light weapons.  I appeal for renewed efforts to ensure an agreement on that protocol. 

         Minister for Justice and Human Rights of Indonesia, YUSRIL IHZA MAHENDRA:  Indonesia is intolerant towards organized crime.  It favours the strengthening of legal policy through reforms in many areas of law, and especially in the criminal justice process.  Strengthening legal policy in this process involves the ratification of international conventions and the signing of treaties on extradition with countries in or near to our region.   In addition, a few months ago, my country and the United States entered into a preliminary discussion on a mutual legal assistance agreement in criminal matters.  Also a national anti-corruption commission is expected to be in place by August 2001.  Another important requirement is to improve the skills and knowledge of law enforcement officials.

         By signing three instruments in Palermo, Indonesia is looking forward to the increased technical assistance activities by the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention for training law enforcement officials and legal system studies.  We urge donor countries to contribute a substantial amount of expertise and funds to this operation so that it can strengthen its activities as stipulated in the Convention.  Mutual legal assistance must never be employed as a means to bypass national legislatures and domestic authority or even to interfere in cases of a purely domestic nature.  If we fail to respect such an important principle, then we will not achieve the objectives set out by the Convention and its two protocols. 

        The Minister of Justice of Greece, MICHAIL STATHOPOULOS:  In recent years, crime has become increasingly international in scope and the financial aspects of crime have become more complex due to the rapid advances in technology and globalization of the financial services industry.  The main characteristic of the menace of organized crime is that it has no borders.  And for that reason, there is no alternative solution but to cooperate closely and fervently.  This acknowledgement is the one which, through consensus, led to the successful conclusion of the Convention.  Admitting the direct relevance of crime prevention and criminal justice to sustainable development, stability, improved quality of life, democracy and human rights was a key factor of our success. 

         A major achievement of the international community was the elaboration of the Convention.  This legal instrument is not a vague, idealistic text, but a most useful tool for the fight against organized crime.  The criminalization of money-laundering and corruption, and the specific extradition procedures established by the Convention will be effective elements once the Convention enters into force.  Success in the joint effort against transnational organized crime depends on the ability of all States to further promote the solidarity and cooperation they have shown during the preparation of the Convention and its protocols. 

        The Minister of Justice of Libya, Abdulrahman Alabbar:  Crimes, which can be perpetuated under the auspices of official and semi-official organizations, need to be addressed.  Bombings of villages when innocent people are asleep, for example, constitute crimes which should be included in the Palermo Convention. 

         Libya, due to its geographic location and political and economic position, is a victim of transnational organized crime.  Every now and then, for example, we realize that certain foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals that have expired are on sale in our local market.  These items are sold by profit-seeking organizations with no moral principles.  Certain banking operations are also carried out with companies that exist only on paper.  Illegal trafficking in metal ore, tax evasion and terrorism are all crimes that need to be stemmed as well.

         The Palermo Convention and its protocols ought to enable us to devise the necessary measures to find the members of organized criminal groups.  Unilateral efforts cannot address the problem of organized crime.  Activities need to be coordinated with other countries.  Libya will continue to deploy its efforts to other countries to put an end to transnational organized crime.  The Convention is a new beginning for us in this area in the twenty-first century and will enable the international community to live in peace.

         The Minister of Justice of Panama, WINSTON SPADAFORA FRANCO:  Panama is a country whose geographical location has placed it at the crossroads of world trade.  To be present at the epicentre of power has its advantages and its costs.  Early on in Panama, we received the full impact of crime and violence.  Today, there are few countries that have developed a legal code that is as advanced as Panama’s because so few have experienced the consequences of crime and know it as well as we do.  Our legal code establishes as crimes those activities that many other countries have omitted. 

        Panama intends to sign the Convention with great satisfaction.  The Convention will offer small countries, like Panama, an opportunity to ensure that others will be able to adjust their legal systems, so that all will be able to go through the same eye of the same needle.  The signature and ratification of this legal instrument will open the way for adaptation of domestic rules and norms.  At the same time, a great deal more has been done in Panama.  It has not forgotten that its economy, by its very nature, is exposed to transnational organized crime.  Nor can Panama deny that a large part of criminal profits are laundered.  The majority of crimes referred to are transnational in origin and their ramifications usually affect many countries and banking institutions. 

         Minister of Security of South Africa, STEVEN TSHWETE:  Through its increased participation in the global market and its desire to expand its share of the benefits of globalization, South Africa is becoming more attractive to illegal activities that emanate from the region and also reach beyond its confines.  These regional criminal syndicates are often extensions of groups long active in the global illegal market.  At the same time, many local organized criminal groups are developing regional and international networks, even linking up with similar groups operating from beyond our region.  The result is that southern Africa is at the receiving end of the expansion in the influence of structured criminal organizations and the emergence of global crime syndicates.

         The foundation of any endeavour to combat organized crime is the legislation that provides the tools that will enable a government to take action against the scourge of transnational criminality.  When one considers, however, the global threat of transnational organized crime, one soon realizes that no individual effort by any State, no matter how comprehensive or sincere, can be sufficient to curb this problem.  All States that suffer the consequences of such criminal activity must take action against this phenomenon through a coordinated and concerted approach.  Such an approach can only be achieved through the recently adopted Convention.  The cornerstones of this treaty and its related protocols are the keys to the areas that should be targeted when combating organized crime. 

         The number of ratifications should not be allowed to stand in the way of the speedy entry into force of the Convention.  We urge all Member States who are gathered here to continue with the momentum that our efforts against transnational organized crime have gained in respective domestic processes and to ratify the instrument that we have come here to sign at the earliest possible opportunity.

         The Minister of Justice of Viet Nam, NGUYEN DINH LOC:  Transnational organized crime has shown alarming growth and threatens the security of the international community.  Despite the efforts deployed by the international community, under the aegis of the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations, and cooperation among States in combating this type of crime, criminals are still looking for all possible means to escape punishment.  We are aware of the danger presented by crime in general and transnational organized crime in particular.  When it comes to crime prevention in the area of drugs, Viet Nam has ratified the three international conventions and has cooperated closely with United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.  The new Vietnamese criminal code, which entered into force on 1 July, has an entire chapter on drug-related offences and describes the serious punishment for it, which includes life sentences and capital punishment. 

         On the eve of the Conference, the Vietnamese National Assembly adopted a law on preventing and fighting drug-related offences.  With the ratification of four United Nations Conventions on human rights, Viet Nam has reaffirmed its intention to fight inhumane acts, including trafficking in human beings, especially women and children.  The punishment in Viet Nam for human trafficking can go as high as 20 years in prison and may involve life imprisonment if convicted of trafficking in children.  In our criminal law, those convicted can also be subject to confiscation of their property in addition to imprisonment. 

        Further, the Government continues to strengthen its cooperation with other countries through the negotiation of bilateral and multilateral agreements.  Being a poor country, Viet Nam did not have the financial resources to participate actively in the elaboration of the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime but did participate in the regional ministerial meeting on the Convention. 

         The Vice-Minister of the Interior of Chile, JORGE BURGOS VARELA:  If we want to re-establish the socio-economic and political balance that has been upset by transnational organized crime, then the Palermo Convention is a step forward in advancing the various concepts in current penal science and legal process.  Chile, like so many others, has been working for years to improve and develop its legal system to respond adequately to new forms of crime. 

         Legislation has been adopted to address issues such as money-laundering and has resulted in an intelligence unit on the subject.  Chile’s national congress has approved various legal texts on corruption that will compliment the Convention.  Regionally, we have approved the Inter-American Convention against corruption. 

         The Convention will strengthen and perfect legislative policy in Chile.  By signing the Treaty, Chile is making a firm commitment to harmonize its domestic legislation with the precepts of the instrument.  The task of adapting existing national legal procedures to new concepts of crime is, of course, a very difficult one.

         The Deputy Attorney General of Mexico, EDUARDO IBARROLA:  Above and beyond our struggle against transnational organized crime, the twenty-first century brings challenges such as the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy, which requires new forms of international cooperation.  Mexico’s new President has reiterated his firm will to intensify its struggle against transnational organized crime.  Since November 1996, it has had an important legal framework that makes the investigation and the trying of members of organized crime more effective.  Transnational organized crime has not only forced us to modernize and strengthen our legal system, but also to find new international mechanisms to strengthen cooperation.  While no country can fight organized crime in an isolated manner, efforts can only be successful if they are developed based on the principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

         The conclusion of the Convention and its protocols give the international community an effective tool to fight transnational organized crime, new methods and techniques for investigation and the means to protect witnesses, as well as means for the exchange and sharing of information.  Organized crime has been promoted by the use of advanced technology and highly trained professionals.  We must improve training programmes to make our own staff better prepared to deal with these developments.  The great economic power these organizations have and the weaknesses in our own institutions are among the causes for corruption.  The fight against corruption is a national priority for the Mexican Government and society.  The commitments undertaken in Palermo must enter into force as quickly as possible.  We will be signing the Convention and its two protocols very soon and hope our Parliament will then ratify them. 

         The President of the Anti-Mafia Commission of the Italian Parliament, GUISEPPE LUMIA:  This Conference is the beginning of a very promising challenge.  We must overcome the mafia and we must do this quickly.  In Italy, this organization has caused incredible damage.  We have attacked the mafia at all fronts.  What is still needed, however, is social promotion, the establishment of a culture of legality and the involvement of citizens.  If we are to overcome the mafia, we have to overcome ourselves, see the ills, improve democracy and fight the mindset of profits at all costs.

         While following the route of enslaved women and children, we have seen how the sale of human beings involves the other mafias who can act worldwide.  The proceeds from this trade range from $ 7-13 billion.  The victims must not be punished, only the racketeers themselves.  Only by collaborating with the victims can we truly attack the organizers.  Such crimes are more organized, more globalized and more financial.  We must therefore be able to rapidly adapt and use different approaches. 

         Organized crime calls for an organized transnational approach to fight it.  Safe havens and tax havens must disappear.  No country should make the laundering of dirty money possible.  We also need to establish an agency such as EUROPOL.  Mafias are based on profit and that, in turn, leads to a world divided between rich and poor.  There is need of a new policy that will bring together public interests and establish a pact of humanity.

         The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of Ireland, JOHN O’DONOGHUE:  The Palermo Convention is unambiguous with regard to its purpose -- to promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organized crime more effectively.  The setting forth of internationally agreed definitions of transnational offences marks a significant step forward in promoting international assistance to bring global criminals to justice in the four corners of the globe.  The protocols have found the right balance between enforcement and prevention measures.  Correctly, the focus is on criminalizing smugglers and traffickers.  The protocols also set out a range of areas with other measures that should make it harder for organized crime to operate. 

          Organized criminals, however, are flexible.  As one avenue is closed, they look for new ones to explore.  There is no room for complacency; we must remain on guard against this particular form of criminal activity.  In Ireland, we are acutely aware of the link between drugs, crime and social exclusion.  We have adopted a multi-agency approach for dealing with these issues at the community level.  This approach has given local communities an effective and vital role in dealing with these problems in their own areas.  Ireland has also, in recent years, become a destination for illegal migration.  In this context, an Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act was enacted in September.  The purpose of this Act is to target the smuggler of human beings.  Also, a National Immigration Bureau has been set to combat trafficking in illegal immigrants. 

          The protection of the most vulnerable persons in our society from all forms of exploitation, particularly sexual, is also a priority.  In this regard, a number of legislative initiatives specifically aimed at the protection of children have been taken in recent years.

         The Minister of Justice of Cuba, ROBERTO DIAZ SOTOLONGO:  Crime has been transforming at an alarming rate, both quantitatively and qualitatively.  In two-and-a-half decades, it has increased by 51 per cent, requiring new means for combating it.  International cooperation has an important role to play, while at the same time respecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Cuba was willing to sign the Convention, and in doing so express its political will to take the steps to translate it into its national legislation.  However, the two protocols require, because of their nature, more detailed study so that Cuba may soon be able to sign them as well.

          Preventive action and the promotion of education is needed to combat organized crime.  The Cuban Parliament approved a year ago various texts that deal with money-laundering.  This sent a message that there is no place in Cuba for organized crime.  These efforts were undertaken with the support of the Cuban people in the hope that they will help block organized crime in our society.  Cuba has been subject to terrorism organized by an anti-Cuban political mafia known as the Cuban-American National Foundation, which operates out of Miami, where it acts with impunity.  The Foundation facilitates the lucrative traffic of migrants to the United States.  Last month, Cuban President Fidel Castro publicly denounced a plan to assassinate him during the Summit of Heads of State and Government, held in Panama.  Thanks to the Panamanian authorities, the perpetrators were arrested.  That attack was planned and financed by the Cuban-American National Foundation. 

         Cuba reaffirms its firm will to promote international cooperation in the struggle against transnational organized crime and its willingness to commit itself to the implementation of the Convention. 

         The Vice-Minister of Justice of Romania, GHEORGE MOCUTA:  No society has been able to escape from the effects of organized crime because the consequences of such crimes are transnational.  Of the 500 million people who migrate, 30 million are illegal immigrants.  The illicit trafficking in human beings and trade in human organs, firearms, drugs and the laundering of money are all the very regrettable consequences of transnational organized crime. 

         The majority of migrants come from developing countries where poverty persists and where more than a billion live on a dollar a day, 3 billion on $2 a day and where 1.5 billion have no access to drinking water.  In such settings, women and children can be sold for as little as $25.  These statistics both illuminate the weakness of international society and the strength of transnational crime. 

         A south-eastern European Regional Centre against Transnational Crimes has been inaugurated in Bucharest.  The project involves 11 countries and has been supported by Romania, with a donation of $2.4 million.  In addition, INTERPOL, the United States, France and Germany will also support the Centre.  Money-laundering, corruption, drug trafficking and violence within families are all issues that are being addressed by national legislation in my country.

         MICHEL ADAM (Belgium):  transnational organized crime has become a challenge for the international community.  Belgium actively participated in the adoption of the Convention.  It is grateful to Poland, which submitted the draft text of the Convention.  In fighting transnational organized crime, political statements are not enough.  It is necessary to have an instrument that would provide each Member State with a clear legal framework to combat transnational organized crime.  Having a universal definition should allow countries to bring our national legislation closer to each other.  The creation of the procedures for legal extradition will also make the job much easier. 

         For Belgium, the protocols are of particular importance.  Belgium is not a large country but is a very open one, with a culture of hospitality.  Sometimes, it is a place of transit for traffickers and smugglers.  It was important to prosecute and punish criminal groups who practice fraud and violence, threaten and coerce, as well as those who take advantage of the vulnerable situation of foreigners.  Western countries have a special responsibility, being the countries of destination.  They must punish criminals and protect the victims.  In doing so, we have to bear in mind the basic human rights of those being trafficked.  We have made the first major step with the adoption of the Convention.  Now we must get down to the task of implementing the texts.  Also, it is important to ensure that the negotiations on the protocol on firearms be finalized quickly. 

         The Minster of Justice of Monaco, PHILIPPE DESLANDES:  The Principality of Monaco has a legal arsenal in place that is already ahead of the principles of the Palermo Convention.  Money-laundering is punishable by 10 to 20 years imprisonment and fines ranging from $20,000 to $2,000,000.  Two sentences have already been handed down for this offence.  One person received 12 years imprisonment and was fined $5,000, while the other was sentenced to seven years and fined $30,000. 

         Monaco also cooperates willingly on an international basis.  Of 242 requests for surveillance assistance, only seven had not been answered.  Money transfers are monitored and suspicious transactions are also reported.  Monaco has signed the Palermo Convention.

         VICTOR G. GARCIA, III (Philippines):  Transnational organized crime by itself, with its potential power to undermine not only legitimate sectors of society but entire social, economic and political systems, demands a strong unequivocal response.  When it tramples on the humanity of our citizens in the pursuit of profit, we must respond with a swift and fatal blow. 

          We are glad that the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons takes into account the vulnerability of victims, especially women and children.  The commitment of the Philippines to fight trafficking in women and children has been demonstrated several times.  The so-called “Manila Process” against irregular migration and human trafficking was initiated in 1996 in response to the abuse and exploitation, even the killing of overseas Filipino workers, mostly women.  The Philippines also first tabled a United Nations General Assembly resolution on trafficking in women and girls in 1994 and has sponsored the same resolution in subsequent years. 

         Our battle against transnational organized crime does not culminate in this signing ceremony.  We must intensify our efforts to effectively win this war by banishing crime from the face of the earth.  The Convention and its protocols should be valuable blueprints toward a holistic approach, embracing law enforcement and socio-cultural and economic elements. 

    * * * * *