Press Releases

    27 August 2003

    Organized Crime to Be a Growing Problem in  Iraq UNODC Fact-Finding Mission Reports

    VIENNA, 27 August (UN Information Service) -- A four-member team from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently returned from a two-week fact finding mission in Iraq.

    The mission, dispatched by Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director, took place in response to a request by the late Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The purpose was to assess the extent of organized crime and drug trafficking, and to identify possible areas of interventions.

    At one of the last meetings held prior to the tragic bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, -- during which Mr. de Mello and at least 22 other UN staff perished, -- the SRSG for Iraq received a debriefing from the UNODC staff.  In paying him tribute, Bernard Frahi, who headed the UNODC mission team, said: "My colleagues and I were greatly impressed with Mr. de Mello's commitment, dedication, vision and his personal leadership in promoting the UN's role to assist the people of Iraq. His loss is an immense tragedy."

    After initial interviews in Baghdad, the mission team travelled extensively in the country.

    The mission team made the following conclusions:

    The Iraqi police infrastructure suffered greatly from damage and looting in the aftermath of the war. Although significant progress has been made by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in rebuilding and reopening police stations, as well as in providing basic training and a limited amount of equipment, much more remains to be done, particularly in developing specialized capabilities to tackle organized crime and drug trafficking.

    Theft of oil and copper and trafficking in these products is currently a major problem.  The evolving nature of organized crime in Iraq is based on sophisticated smuggling networks, many established under the previous regime to circumvent UN sanctions. In recent months, an upsurge in violent crime, including kidnapping and murder, has taken place.

    Although drug trafficking is not yet viewed as a serious problem, given Iraq's porous borders, geographical location, -- situated near one of the major drug routes for the smuggling of opiates from Afghanistan, -- and an established tradition of smuggling, a strong possibility of an increase in drug trafficking exists.

    The criminal justice system requires substantial reforms in order to respond effectively to the challenges of organized crime and drug trafficking.

     The UNODC mission report highlights a number of recommendations to complement the efforts of the CPA, Governing Council and of international aid agencies working in Iraq.  The recommendations relate to legal assistance, institution and capacity building, prevention of drug abuse and the promotion of Iraq's reintegration into regional and international cooperation agreements.

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