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Homeland Security


Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

10 July 2003

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime would enter into force on 29 September, Dimitri Vlassis, an officer with the United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention in Vienna, said today at a Headquarters press briefing.

The fortieth instrument of ratification for the Convention had been deposited on 1 July, Mr. Vlassis continued. That meant the Convention would go into force on the heels of a treaty event organized by the Office of Legal Affairs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that would be held from 23 to 26 September.

The purpose of the event was to encourage States to ratify instruments in the fields of transnational organized crime, terrorism, illicit drugs, trafficking in persons and human rights, he said. Hopefully, it would contribute significantly to a higher number of ratifications for the Convention and its three Protocols related to trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in firearms. That, in turn, would lend momentum to next year’s first session of the Conference of the Parties, the implementation mechanism that the Convention had established.

Reviewing the Convention’s history, Mr. Vlassis recalled it had been negotiated in a record time of two years through a highly participatory process. There had been a consistently high level of political will to elaborate the Convention, and a record number of 123 States had signed it at a high-level political signing conference held in Palermo in 2000. As of today, 147 States had signed and 40 had ratified. The Protocol on Trafficking in Persons had been signed by 117 States and ratified by 28; that on smuggling of migrants had been signed by 112 and ratified by 27; that on firearms, by 52 and four.

By the record reception given to the Convention, he said the international community had recognized that transnational organized crime was growing in scale, scope and degree of sophistication. The Convention and its Protocols gave the international community new tools with which to fight the kinds of crime they covered. They were novel approaches toward dealing with emerging issues. For example, the Convention didn’t define organized crimes but rather defined organized criminal groups. It, thereby, sent a strong message that, regardless of the activities in which criminal groups engaged, the international community was intent on disrupting their activities and bringing them to justice.

The Convention had established four specific offences in which organized criminal groups engaged, he said. Those were participation in a criminal group, money laundering, corruption and obstruction of justice. The Convention also covered all serious crimes committed by organized criminal groups, as well as all offences established pursuant to the Protocols. The interplay of the Convention with the Protocols raised the ability of countries to effectively cooperate to fight transnational organized crime in all its manifestations.

Asked about the percentage of activities in which organized crime groups engaged, he said his office conducted on-going surveys of those activities. The overall rationale behind the Convention, however, and the basis for its design, was its specific purpose of helping countries to cooperate with each other in the context of the activities the organized criminal groups carried out. The Convention recognized that transnational organized crime groups operated more or less like a business. Their objective was to minimize risk and maximize profit. They shifted from business to business and one area to another, depending on where risks were lowest and profits highest.

Asked why the Convention and its first two Protocols had received wide acceptance while the third Protocol on firearm trafficking had been ratified by only four States so far, he said the third Protocol had taken longer to complete and had missed out on the initial momentum the other instruments had gained in Palermo. Further, the Convention was the “mother document”. It had to be signed before the others could be. Also, the third protocol was specific and technical. It required specific legislation to implement measures on record keeping and marking of weapons, for example.

Were the protocols intended to force countries to make legislative changes? correspondent asked.

The protocols were intended to supplement the Convention, Mr. Vlassis said. They were more specific and they required actions. They involved capacity-building and law enforcement, as well as measures to be taken to protect victims, for example. The Convention remained at the general level, but it strengthened the effect of the protocols in the areas they covered.

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