Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 7 News List

UN treaty against organized crime ready for action


Enough countries have ratified the first UN convention on fighting international organized crime for it to go into effect, and the treaty will take force tomorrow, UN officials said.

The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was adopted in 2000 in hopes of slowing the spread of money laundering, organized crime and human trafficking. It seeks to eliminate differences between nations' legal systems and set standards for domestic laws.

``It is a convention with teeth,'' Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, said on Friday.

Countries that have agreed to the convention must cooperate with one another in the fight against organized criminal groups, money laundering, corruption and the obstruction of justice.

One key of the convention is that it defines a criminal group as "three or more people working together to commit one or more serious crimes for material benefit."

It urges countries to speed up extraditions and sign agreements on making them easier, and says countries should recognize crimes covered by the convention as extraditable even if two nations have no extradition treaty.

Most of the countries that ratified the convention were developing nations, Costa said. He appealed to richer nations to follow suit. Only two members of the EU -- France and Spain -- have ratified it while the US, which signed in 2000, has not.

UN officials also pushed countries to adopt three supplementary protocols to fight migrant smuggling and the trafficking of humans and firearms.

Later in the day, the protocol on human trafficking got the more than 40 signatories needed to go into effect in 90 days, while the others would need more time.

The convention comes into effect amid wider efforts to encourage countries to sign and ratify some of roughly 500 UN treaties during the General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting. As usual, a special area was set up in the secretariat where country delegates could sign the documents.

UN legal counsel Hans Correll said that from Sept. 23 through noon on Friday, 52 states had signed 141 treaty agreements.

The UN usually tries to focus on a handful of treaties that need more signatories at its annual meetings. This year, the one on transnational organized crime, as well as agreements on terrorism, the safety of UN personnel, tobacco control and torture, were highlighted.

The UN is also working on a convention against corruption and is expected to have a final text by Wednesday.

The 48 countries that ratified the convention on transnational organized crime are: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Estonia, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gambia, Guatemala, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro, Seychelles, Spain, Ta-jikistan, Tunisia, Turkey and Venezuela.

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