For information only - not an official document.
14 December 2000
Need for Common Response to Transnational Crimes Discussed
At Symposium on Rule of Law in Global Village

(reissued as received from an UN Information Officer)

     PALERMO, 14 December -- Regional efforts against organized crime, combating the crime of trafficking in humans and countering abuses in the banking sector were among the issues discussed this afternoon at a Symposium entitled, “The Rule of Law in the Global Village -- Issues of Sovereignty and Universality”. 

     The Symposium has been convened in conjunction with the High-level Political Signing Conference for the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which opened yesterday in Palermo, Italy.  The theme of this afternoon’s session was, “Coping with Transnational Crimes:  The Need for a Common Response”.

     Penuell Mpapa Maduna, Minister of Justice of South Africa, spoke on “Common Solutions to Common Crime Problems -- Southern Africa Initiatives”.  He said the new Government in South Africa had introduced several legislative measures and innovations to support the criminal justice agencies in their fight against crime.  There was a consistent need to modernize aspects of the legal system to take account of international developments dealing effectively with crime, particularly organized crime.  One of the measures was the Prevention of Organized Crime Act, which had introduced new asset-forfeiture measures.  By hitting criminals where it hurt most -- in the wallet -- forfeiture could have an important deterrent effect.

     In order to have any hope of success in the fight against global crime, national measures must be complemented with an effective network of international cooperation, he said.  To address the drug-trafficking problem in the region, the members of the Southern-African Development Community (SADC) had signed and ratified a protocol to combat that crime.  Recently, he added, the SADC Legal Sector had prepared a draft protocol against corruption, which had then been approved and forwarded to the Council of Ministers for adoption.

     Those measures, along with others, had only been in place in southern Africa for a relatively short time, he said.  They had, however, yielded encouraging results.  He urged all States to consider similar measures, so that a truly unified front against global crime could be presented.

     Ian de Vere Carrington, of the Global Programme against Money Laundering, United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention, made a presentation on “Countering Abuses of the Banking Sector -- Where Do We Stand?”.  He said it was hard to answer the question posed by his paper, as it was difficult to speak with certainty about the volume of money-laundering.  The International Monetary Fund’s estimate was that the volume lay somewhere between 2-5 per cent of world gross domestic product, but no one knew for sure. 

     Taking up the impact of the problem, he observed that some held the view that the presence of “bad” or laundered money could pose the risk of driving out “good” or legitimate money.  It had also been noted that laundered money was not as productive in economic terms, because those laundering money were not as concerned with the level of returns as legitimate investors.

     He stressed the importance of bankers knowing their customers in the fight against money-laundering, as well as the responsibility they had for the actions of their staff.  Directors could not claim innocence in the case of crimes committed by their officers.  He then outlined the role of the United Nations Global Programme against Money Laundering in providing links to financial institutions and in strengthening infrastructure.  Helping to establish financial intelligence units was another important aspect of the Progamme’s work.

     Taking up factors that could motivate banks to get involved in the fight against money-laundering, he cited the factor of “reputation risk” -- banks didn’t want to have a bad name.  There was also the legal risk, both private and institutional.  He said the Palermo Convention widened the definition of money-laundering to all serious crimes.  Especially important for the struggle was that it had the force of international law.

     Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar, Founder of the Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation of Nigeria, delivered a paper entitled “The Role of the Rule of Law in Abolishing Modern Slavery:  Controlling the Global Sex Trade”.  She said that despite all the humanitarian struggles, especially in the nineteenth century, the practice of slavery still existed.  Trafficking in human beings was slavery in modern form.  It was a very real phenomenon and was difficult to deny.  The international community must counter this inhumane crime with great determination. 

     From conference to conference, the definition of trafficking in women had been hotly contested and seriously debated, she said.  The debate had involved the complex nature of trafficking and the often-conflicting interests of various States and non-governmental organizations.  However, the finalization and adoption of the Palermo Convention’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, had laid the definitional problem to rest.

     The protocol, she said, would help to ensure that victims of trafficking would not bear the burden of proof and would disallow a consent defence for traffickers.  It would also reverse the trend in recent years to separate prostitution from trafficking and would stem the tide of the pro-sex-industry lobby.  She stressed that responses and actions to combat trafficking in humans must have the same ethical basis as the fight against slavery.  The rule of law would be the international community’s weapon.

    The Symposium is scheduled to conclude tomorrow morning, when speakers discuss the theme, “The Challenge of Borderless Cybercrime”.

* * * * *