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Homeland Security


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

26 September 2003

The 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime -– the first legally binding treaty of its kind -- would enter into force on Monday, 29 September, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, announced at a Headquarters press briefing this afternoon.

Describing the instrument, under which Member States would be required to cooperate in dealing with money laundering, corruption and obstruction of justice, as an important accomplishment, he recalled that the Millennium Declaration stressed the importance of the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime as a major ingredient for the sustainability of development.

The 41 ratifications needed for the Convention’s entry into force had been achieved, Mr. Costa said, adding that the treaty had “teeth”. It established specific offences which would be made criminal as well as mechanisms for international cooperation in interdiction and sharing of intelligence.

Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel, said the treaty events had been designed to assist Member States of the United Nations in creating an international society under the rule of law. The events had started in 2000 with the support of the Secretary-General, who was the custodian of more than 500 multilateral treaties covering the entire spectrum of human interaction and establishing globally-agreed standards and behaviour of States.

Noting that those treaties increasingly also impacted on the lives of individuals and business as well as the activities of corporations, Mr. Corell expressed the hope that commitments undertaken internationally would be faithfully implemented at the domestic level.

The advancement and consolidation of the international rule of law were the foremost objectives, the Legal Counsel said. The great importance that the Secretary-General attached to that could be discerned from his statements over the years and his reports to the General Assembly. The Security Council had discussed the question of the rule of law at the national level a few days ago, he added.

Turning to the treaty signing events, Mr. Corell said the first one had taken place in 2000 in connection with the Millennium Summit. On that occasion

84 States had undertaken 274 treaty actions -– a greater response than had been expected. The signing events had continued in 2001 with the focus on the rights of women and children. On that occasion, 61 States had undertaken 135 treaty actions together.

He said the events of 11 September 2001 had prompted the Secretary-General to organize another treaty event in November 2001 with the focus on treaties against terrorism. On that occasion, 79 States had undertaken 180 treaty actions, which were seen as a clear demonstration of the international community’s solidarity with the host country in a time of distress and a firm message to those who pursued terrorist objectives.

The Legal Counsel said that the 2002 treaty event had coincided with the World Summit on Sustainable Development, during which 41 countries had undertaken

84 treaty actions. In 2003, the focus was on treaties against transnational organized crime and terrorism. States had undertaken a number of actions from

23 September, and by 12 noon today, 52 States had participated in the event, undertaking 141 treaty actions. The total figure would be announced later today with the closing of the event.

Mr. Costa said that a majority of the 41 States that had ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime were developing countries. France and Spain were among the European ratifying States.

In addition to the Convention, three related Protocols had been successfully negotiated in 2000, he said. It was most likely that by the end of the day, one of them -– that against trafficking in persons -- would have been declared to have entered into effect. The other two were the Protocol on Smuggling of Migrants, which had been signed by 112 and ratified by 34 States, and the Firearms Protocol, signed by 52 and ratified by 10 States.

Mr. Costa said 29 September was also an important date as the Ad Hoc Committee negotiating the Convention against Corruption would resume what was expected to be its final round of talks in Vienna. He said he believed that before the end of next week agreement would have been reached on the text. It would be the first-ever United Nations convention against corruption. Forty States would have to ratify for its entry into force.

According to a release issued at the press briefing, the Convention was designed as the international community’s response to the growing globalization of organized crime. It 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 had been 48 as of 25 September -– are obliged to incorporate its provisions into their domestic laws. They make a commitment to adopt 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, victim protection and crime-prevention measures.

Asked why only a small number of developed countries had ratified the Convention, Mr. Costa said the issue was not lack of interest in the instrument but that the ratification process was complex, involving an act of parliament by each country authorizing a government to deposit the instrument of ratification. It also required domestic legislation to be consistent with the provisions of the Convention’s articles. There were, consequently, procedural delays, he added.

Responding to a question about work on a Comprehensive Convention against Terrorism and a Convention against the Suppression of Nuclear Terrorism,

Mr. Corell replied that the negotiators were “almost there”. From the legal standpoint, the problem was the definition of terrorism in the Comprehensive Convention against Terrorism. The instrument against nuclear terrorism was closely related to it.

He said the political climate had suddenly changed in October 2001 and some countries had become apprehensive about agreeing to the text. Since then, the

Ad Hoc Committee had continued its work on the two texts. The Committee had met last spring and would report to the General Assembly through the Sixth Committee (Legal), which might decide to set up a working group to continue the negotiations.

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