26 September 2003

Landmark United Nations Treaty against Organized Crime Enters into Force

Corruption Convention Talks to Resume on Monday

VIENNA, 26 September (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the first legally binding treaty to fight organized crime, enters into force on Monday, 29 September 2003. The Convention requires Member States to cooperate with each another against offences such as participation in an organized criminal group, money laundering, corruption, and obstruction of justice.

"This treaty provides the international community new tools to confront transnational organized crime. It is a convention with teeth, with new norms about extradition, mutual legal assistance, transfer of proceedings and joint investigations. For example, bank secrecy will no longer be used to shield criminal activities," said Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The Convention has been designed as the international community's response to the progressing globalization of organized crime. Organized criminal groups have used the progress in transportation and communication technologies to develop new opportunities for theft, diversion, smuggling and other crimes, including enormous profits from the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings.

The Convention defines a criminal group as three or more people working together to commit one or more serious crimes for material benefit. States ratifying the Convention - and there have been 48 as of 25 September 2003 with more presenting their instruments of ratification today - are obliged to incorporate the treaty provisions into their domestic laws. By ratifying the Convention, the States make a commitment to adopting a series of crime-control measures, including the criminalization of participation in an organized criminal group, money laundering, corruption, and obstruction of justice; extradition; mutual legal assistance; administrative and regulatory controls; law-enforcement; victim protection and crime-prevention measures.

"States party to the Convention are obliged to adopt domestic laws to prevent and suppress activities related to organized crime," said Mr. Costa.

At a high-level political signing conference, held from 12 to 16 December 2000 in Palermo, Italy, the Convention received an unprecedented number of signatures by 123 Member States and the European Community; 24 more countries signed soon after.  As of 23 September 2003, the Convention, signed by 147 Member States, was ratified by the following forty-eight States in a chronological order: Monaco, Nigeria, Serbia-Montenegro, Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Peru, Spain, Mali, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Canada, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Philippines, Tajikistan, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, Namibia, Albania, Botswana, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Morocco, Algeria, France, Argentina, Romania, Croatia, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Mexico, Turkey, Mauritius, Cyprus, Seychelles, Gambia, Tunisia, Belarus, Armenia, Costa Rica, China, Norway, Malta, Afghanistan, Lesotho, Comoros and Guatemala.

In addition to the Convention, three related Protocols were agreed on in 2000.

The Protocol on Trafficking in Persons as of today noon has been signed by 117 States and ratified by 38 more. With the Treaty Event in New York this week, it is anticipated that the Protocol might receive the fortieth instrument of ratification before the end of this day.

This Protocol serves three main purposes: to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, especially women and children; to protect and assist victims; and to promote cooperation among states parties to meet these objectives.  The Protocol will therefore enter into force on December 25, 2003.

The Protocol on Smuggling of Migrants has been signed by 112 and ratified by 34 States.

The Firearms Protocol has been signed by 52 and ratified by 10 States.

The first session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is scheduled in Vienna in late June 2004, to review implementation. In order to promote the ratification process, the UNODC is providing technical assistance to Member States. The Office has organized a number of regional seminars and has assisted individual countries in incorporating the new instruments into their legal system. UNODC has just completed the preparation of legislative guides for the implementation of the Convention and the Protocols. The guides will serve as technical tools to help in legislative reforms that might be required in the process of implementation.

On a related issue, the Ad Hoc Committee for the Negotiation of the Convention against Corruption is resuming what is expected to be the final round of talks on Monday, 29 September in Vienna. The Committee made significant progress during its sixth session in August this year, and is expected to finalize the text of the Convention on October 1, 2003. The text then needs to be adopted by the UN General Assembly. A Conference has been planned in Merida, Mexico from 9 to 11 December 2003, at which representatives of Member States will sign the Convention.

For further information, see UNODC website: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CTOC/index.html

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