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15 December 2000
More than 120 Nations Sign New UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, As High-level Meeting Concludes in Palermo
PALERMO, 15 December -- The High-level Signing Conference for the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime concluded today its four-day session in Palermo, Italy.
As of noon today, 124 of the Organization’s 189 Member States had signed this landmark Treaty, with close to 80 of them also signing the treaty’s two accompanying protocols -- one to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and the other against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air. (The signatories are listed in an annex to this press release.) Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 November, the Convention will enter into force after 40 countries have ratified it.
During the course of the Conference, representatives from more than 100 countries, including Heads of State and Government, and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice, made statements on the new treaty and its protocols.
In his closing statement to the Conference, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCCP), Pino Arlacchi, declared that never before had an international convention attracted so many signatures barely four weeks following its adoption by the Assembly. The delegations that had spoken during the Conference had left no one in any doubt that there was a strong and clear international commitment to achieving early ratification of the Convention.
"Let us not lose the momentum we have achieved so far", he said. He invited delegations to join forces to ensure that the Convention and its protocols entered into force within the coming 12 months and offered United Nations support to countries that needed help in translating the new instruments into legislation. He stressed the need to maintain a reasonable yet determined sense of urgency to ensure the security and well-being of all societies. With the adoption of the Convention, he stated, the international community was now well ahead in the construction of an international framework of legal instruments aimed specifically at confronting the most serious threats to human security.
Italy’s Minister of Justice, Piero Fassino, who was President of the Conference, observed that the meetings had demonstrated a firm and formal international commitment to take action against organized crime. He hoped that more countries would sign the instruments in the future and called for their timely ratification and transformation into domestic legislation. He also stressed the need to continue negotiations, so that the protocol on firearms could be concluded.
Also this morning, the Conference adopted its draft report as presented by its Rapporteur, Penuell Mpapa Maduna, Minister of Justice of South Africa.
Statements in this morning’s closing meeting were made by the President of Mozambique, Joaquim Alberto Chissano, and by government representatives of Sri Lanka, Netherlands, Sudan, Venezuela, Congo, the Gambia, India and Zambia.
Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
The efforts of the United Nations to strengthen international cooperation to combat organized crime date back 25 years. The results of these efforts -- the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two protocols -- were officially opened for signature at a Palermo ceremony on 12 December, which was addressed by the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Campi; the President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as well as by Italian Justice Minister Fassino, local and regional Italian officials, and by Under-Secretary-General Arlacchi.
The Convention extends well beyond the sphere of cooperation on drug trafficking. It seeks to strengthen the power of governments in combating serious crimes. The new treaty will provide the basis for stronger common action against money-laundering, greater ease of extradition, and measures on the protection of witnesses and enhanced judicial cooperation. It will also establish a funding mechanism to help countries implement the Convention. An important goal of the instrument is to get all countries to synchronize their national laws, so that there can be no uncertainty as to whether a crime in one country is also a crime in another.
The aims of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children are three-fold: to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, particularly women and children; to protect and assist the victims of such trafficking; and to promote cooperation among States parties to meet these objectives. The protocol will serve as a model for national legislation, detailing provisions on conduct which should be sanctioned, the severity of punishment and effective measures to combat as well as prevent trafficking.
The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air provides an effective tool to combat and prevent the smuggling of human cargo. However, while it has been created to prevent smuggling, the new laws do not aim to dictate domestic migration policy and migration flow. They recognize that migration in itself is not a crime and, therefore, not liable to criminal prosecution. Migrants are victims in need of protection. Thus, emphasis is placed on the criminalization of the smugglers and the organized criminal groups behind them.
Organization of Conference, Officers
In addition to daily plenary meetings, the Palermo Conference also held a number of side events, including a symposium examining issues of sovereignty and universality in the context of the rule of law in the global village; a forum for global action against trafficking in persons; and a seminar for the media on issues involving the Convention. The municipality of Palermo conducted an event citing its experiences with respect to the role of civil society in countering organized crime.
Other officers of the Conference, in addition to Justice Minister Fassino, were: Gonzalo Salvador (Ecuador); Marylise Lebranchu (France); Nobuyasu Abe (Japan); Eduardo Ibarrola Nicolin (Mexico); Shaukat Umer (Pakistan); Janusz Rydzkowski (Poland); Alojz Nemethy (Slovakia); and Bechir Tekari (Tunisia), Vice-Presidents; and Penuell Mpapa Maduna (South Africa), Rapporteur.
Conference Work Programme
The High-Level Signing Conference for the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime met this morning to hear further statements by governmental representatives and close its four-day session.
The new Treaty, adopted by the General Assembly on 15 November, will enter into force after 40 countries have ratified it.
The Minister of Justice of Sri Lanka, BATTY WEERAKOON: Our concern for the full recognition of the rights of women and children has inspired several legal and administrative measures that would prevent their abuse. We have recognized the need to deal with the trafficking of persons and the smuggling of human cargo at an international level. While organized crime has a commercial aspect, it also has political links. Political movements often find their resources from organized crime. Trafficking in drugs and human beings are the traditional areas of organized crime. Today there were new areas that are not necessarily within the black economy but constitute a very legitimate business.
It is here that money-laundering comes in. These investments are a dependable source of financing for terrorist movements. The proceeds from organized crime are used by terrorist movements to buy arms from both legal and illegal sources. Sri Lanka’s legitimate and democratic Government is today at the receiving end of this kind of international terrorism. In the same way that the Convention demands that there should be no havens for money launderers, there should also be no safe havens for terrorists. It is only to the extent that each country combats this phenomenon within its own borders that we can achieve the objectives of the Convention.
CHRISTIAAN KRONER (Netherlands): The Convention, with its protocols, is a vital instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime. Although we are fully satisfied with the results before us, let us not forget to look ahead. We still have many tasks to attend to. First of all, the General Assembly’s instruction to finalize the work on the firearms protocol should be carried out as soon as possible. It seems to us that the proposals now being considered in the ad hoc committee provide excellent opportunities to come to an agreement soon. Second, we need to get the Convention and its protocols through the national ratification procedures as quickly as possible.
There are also new challenges that must be addressed. In December 1999, the General Assembly called for a proposal on an international legal instrument against corruption. What this would involve is not yet clear. So we are moving forward carefully. It is very important for negotiations on such a convention to begin immediately after the Assembly’s fifty-sixth session in 2001. The Netherlands will host a Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity from 28 to 31 May 2001 in The Hague. Discussion among scholars and experts from the field will be followed by a conference at the ministerial level.
The Minister of Justice of Sudan, ALI MOHAMED OSMAN YASSIN: Today we are all convinced that transnational organized crime constitutes a true threat to the stability of our countries, particularly in light of new developments and the use of new and sophisticated technologies. The rapid pace of communications between countries, especially through the Internet, has meant that criminal organizations and gangs have been able to increase their power. The international community has had to respond by working together to combat transnational organized crime. We must ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes cannot escape punishment. Transnational organized crime requires us to remain vigilant and alert. We must establish the groundwork for a moral and stable society, through the education of our young people.
Also requiring particular attention is putting an end to internal conflicts, which weakens the State’s capacity to address such problems. A strong domestic State is one which is capable of fighting organized crime. We have been trying to establish a just social peace, which will allow peace to flourish in the future. We actively participated in the meetings that dealt with organized crime and had the opportunity to work directly on the texts, which have been concluded. We have national legislation on many issues addressed in the Convention. I must refer to the enormous differences that exist between the countries of the North and South, which make it necessary to re-establish some balance. I appeal to the developed countries to earmark the necessary funds to support developing countries to help them overcome problems of poverty. I hope the Conference will make it possible for the United Nations, through the Security Council, to study the negative consequences that economic sanctions can have on a country, especially its impact on individuals.
The President of Mozambique, JOAQUIM ALBERTO CHISSANO: Mozambique, as part of this global family, suffers the same vicious and degrading effects of this common evil, which is transnational organized crime. Our accession to the Convention and its protocols is based on the realization that transnational organized crime cannot be successfully and efficiently fought by one State alone, without international cooperation and solidarity. The Government’s efforts to materialize its international commitments has led to the adoption of the Code of Conduct for Government and Other State Leaders, whose main objective is combating corruption. Acts for the establishment of the High Authority against Corruption and on money-laundering are under consideration by the relevant organs of the State.
Combating transnational organized crime can only be successful and effective if we bring together our efforts and resources. The richest nations must support unconditionally the most disadvantaged nations by providing them access to financial and material means, to modern technologies and know-how. The political will of our respective governments, although an essential element to combat transnational organized crime, is not by itself sufficient enough. The economic weaknesses of our countries turn them into vulnerable zones for the practice of such crimes. The scarcity of financial, material and technological means should, however, not be an acceptable excuse to compromise the struggle against this common evil. Each and every country must endeavour to discourage and stop organized crime with whatever means are at their disposal. The Republic of Mozambique undertakes to fully implement the Convention and its two protocols.
FERNANDO GERBASI (Venezuela): We pledge to make every effort to bring about early ratification of the Convention in the National Assembly. This Conference highlights the gravity of the problem of transnational organized crime, which has grown over time and is now spanning more and more territory. Globalization has compacted the problem. Venezuela, as a bridge between producer and consumer countries, suffers from drug trafficking. Kidnapping is also a problem in Venezuela, as is corruption, which is fed by national and transnational money. There is a bill before the national legislature on migration and normalization of the situation of foreigners. We are pleased to see that the protocol on illegal migrancy does not penalize the victims -- it penalizes the trafficking and the trafficker.
To defend ourselves against the onslaught of transnational organized crime, our country has been buttressing its criminal legal system. The Law on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is but one example. Also, a bill on organized crime is awaiting approval in the National Assembly. Such instruments, among others, are a faithful reflection of our devotion to the Convention and its protocols. It is becoming necessary to step up technical and economic cooperation for the purposes of adequately implementing the Convention. Venezuela will always stand with any initiative to stop the advance of transnational organized crime, but will protect its national sovereignty.
The Minister of Justice of Congo, JEAN MARTIN MBEMBA: The need for international cooperation in our struggle against organized crime is something that no longer needs to be proven. With this cooperation, we are trying to work more closely together to fight organized crime, control drug trafficking and harmonize the way we use the available tools. The Congo is working with our region, which has been afflicted with organized crime, particularly trafficking in children. During this post-conflict phase, we remain vulnerable to and are further weakened by organized crime. We reaffirm our political will to stand up to organized crime in all its forms, particularly corruption. Money-laundering is one
form of organized crime which has devastated African countries. Our Government has created an action plan addressing three areas -- training, improving working conditions and reassessing salaries and emoluments, which have increased threefold this year. Further, we have taken steps to ensure the proper development of our budget for the first quarter of 2001.
In Africa, many high-level politicians and businessmen find safe havens for their ill-gotten gains. The instruments we are signing today should help to discourage the placement of those ill-gotten gains in foreign banks and facilitate their return to their countries of origin. We will sign and ratify the Convention and its protocols in a very timely manner, as well as take the necessary steps to update our own legal arsenal with the provisions of these instruments. We hope that the protocol on firearms will soon be presented to us for signature and ratification. This will be one of the best ways to mark the beginning of the new millennium.
OUSMAN BADJIE, Secretary of State for the Interior and Religious Affairs of the Gambia: Crime is no longer local, it is international. Unfortunately, the effects of the globalization of markets and the extremely rapid development of technology, communications in particular, have not all been positive. Organized crime is big business and it is bad business. It is an international problem that threatens public safety. Such crime threatens all of us.
Of serious concern to my Government is the role that the international community should play in ensuring the effective implementation of the Convention. First of all, State parties, especially developing countries and handicapped States, should be provided with the necessary assistance to develop the essential structures and expertise to handle cases emanating from transnational organized crime. Also, the necessary mechanism for the harmonization of certain provisions of State parties legal systems should be established, or else the pursuit of criminals will be negatively impacted.
Implementation of the Convention will serve to reinforce national, subregional and regional measures and strategies designed to enhance our collective effort to provide an effective deterrence to the growth and expansion of transnational organized crime. The twentieth century has bequeathed to humankind a sophisticated world where progress in all human endeavours is matched by negative criminal trends. Our only hope to combat the menace of transnational organized crime is to develop a common operation plan to eliminate it -- this is what the Convention has given us.
The Vice-Minister of Interior of India, RAJ KUMAR SINGH: India is a large and vibrant democracy and one which believes that organized crime and terrorism are two of the main threats to our societies. Unless we cooperate together, the scourge of transnational organized crime will affect us all. Drugs originating outside our borders are being smuggled through our country to other countries. Also, criminals operating in our country have found safe havens in other countries. India is trying to conclude extradition treaties with other countries and hopes that the Convention will facilitate our efforts to bring those criminals to justice. It has already established oversight mechanisms to combat money-laundering. The Protocols on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants also address important areas of contemporary concern. India is still host to some of the largest migrant groups.
The single biggest concern of contemporary society has yet to be addressed -- international terrorism. We need to bring it out into the open and talk about it. The protocol on firearms is extremely important for civil society. The illicit trafficking in firearms is closely linked to trafficking and terrorism. This protocol should be finalized in the coming months. There should be no exception clauses in that protocol. All countries should come together and conclude the text. Notwithstanding what remains to be done, with the conclusion of this Conference, we have taken an important step forward in our fight against organized crime.
EDWIN HATEMBO, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs of Zambia: This Conference marks a milestone in the history of the United Nations and mankind. Transnational organized crime, as the name implies, can only be controlled and prevented if concerted efforts are made by each and every nation. Zambia is not only committed to the signing of the Convention and its attendant protocols, but is also anxiously looking forward to their implementation. As a global village, all nations should be concerned with the root causes of transnational organized crime and institute appropriate legislation to fight the scourge.
Individually and collectively, nations must examine the driving factors behind transnational organize crime. Every effort should be made to seal loopholes that perpetuate such crime. The successful implementation of the Convention and its protocols will promote peace and stability, and enhance economic development, leading to the improvement of the social and economic status of our peoples.
The Minister of Justice of South Africa, PENUELL MPAPA MADUNA, in his capacity as Rapporteur of the Conference: I have the pleasure to present the draft report of the Conference, which contains the background on the Conference, as well as attendance and work of the Conference, covering the opening ceremony and the plenary sessions. The report will also include the list of signatures to the Convention and its Protocols, which will be annexed to the draft report. The final report to be issued in the six official languages of the United Nations, will also include a summary of the statements made by the Heads of State and Government and Government Ministers.
Following his introduction, the representatives Egypt, the Gambia, Azerbaijan, Namibia and the Republic of Congo drew the Conference’s attention to technical errors in the draft report.
The Conference then proceeded to adopt its draft report as contained in document A/CONF/195/L.1.
The representative of Argentina asked if any more States had signed the Convention this morning, to which the President of the Conference, PIERO FASSINO (Italy) responded that Mozambique, Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso had also signed this morning, bringing the total number of signatures to 121. The representative of Sudan informed the Conference that it had also signed this morning.
PINO ARLACCHI, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, in closing remarks: We all made history in Palermo. We were 150 countries in attendance, and a record number of States -- in fact 121 States -- already signed the Convention. The protocols were signed by nearly 80 States. Never before has an international convention attracted so many signatures barely 4 weeks following its adoption by the General Assembly. The delegations that have spoken here should leave nobody in any doubt that there is a strong and clear international commitment to achieving early ratification of the Convention.
Let us not lose the momentum we have achieved so far. I should like to invite you to join forces to ensure that the Convention and its protocols enter into force within the coming 12 months. We must maintain a reasonable and yet determined sense of urgency to ensure the security and well-being of our societies. By doing so, we honour all those who have devoted their lives to upholding the law.
The United Nations, working jointly with Member States, now stands ready to support those countries that need help to translate into legislation and action the new instruments. It is extremely encouraging to learn that Italy would annually devote the monetary equivalent of 25 per cent of confiscated assets to the United Nations to help developing countries in this regard. Several other countries have expressed similar intentions. With the adoption of the Convention -- preceded by the three international drug control treaties and the commitments made by world leaders at the United Nations special session on drugs in 1988 -- we are now well ahead in the construction of an international framework of legal instruments aimed specifically at confronting the most serious threats to human security.
Looking ahead, attention should now focus on finalizing the protocol on firearms, as well as on launching the process to develop an international instrument to fight corruption. As in the past, our common efforts shall continue to be grounded in strong political will and our collective commitment to universality, full participation of States and shared responsibility. In this respect, I am confident that the close and pragmatic collaborations now emerging among governments and civil society will find solutions to today’s major human security threats.
Piero Fassino, Minister of Justice of Italy, in brief closing remarks: The Conference has demonstrated that there is a firm and formal international commitment to take action against organized crime. I hope that more countries will sign the instruments in the future. The number of signatories thus far is extremely encouraging. I call for the timely ratification of these provisions and their transformation into domestic legislation. Now, negotiations will have to continue so that the protocol on firearms may be concluded.
UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION AGAINST TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME
AND THE PROTOCOLS THERETO
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