UN CONVENTION AGAINST TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE
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Picture Courtesy: www.coe.int
Context: The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs participated in the two-day UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime Ministerial Conference in Palermo, Italy, on September 28-29.
Key Highlights of the Minister's Speech
- He emphasized India's ancient philosophy of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,' which sees all of creation as a family, emphasizing the idea that we are all part of one Earth and one family.
- He acknowledged that organized crime represents a significant global threat and has leveraged technology to expand its networks. This includes various challenges such as arms trafficking, drug trafficking, cybercrime, human trafficking, corruption, money laundering, and the international dispersal of proceeds of crime.
- He said that India has updated and strengthened its legal framework to combat organized crime, including the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016; amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018, and amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
- He mentioned that India's G20 Presidency outcomes included principles related to strengthening law enforcement, asset recovery mechanisms, promoting integrity, and the effectiveness of public bodies in combating corruption.
- He highlighted the connection between organized crime and terrorism, noting that organized crime networks often have deep links with terrorist outfits. Activities like money laundering and financial crimes can support terror funding.
- He emphasized that there should be no safe havens for organized crime at the international level. It is crucial to deny safe havens to those engaged in transnational organized crime by prosecuting their crimes wherever they occur and by cooperating internationally.
- He called for leveraging the UNTOC Convention as a framework to enhance international cooperation in combating organized crime. India has been proactive in providing assistance to other countries under UNTOC and reaffirmed its commitment to future cooperation.
United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC)
- The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) is a landmark treaty that aims to combat the global threat of transnational organized crime.
- The UNTOC was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000, after a series of negotiations that began in 1994. The treaty was opened for signature in Palermo, Italy, in December 2000, hence it is also known as the Palermo Convention.
- The treaty entered into force in September 2003, after receiving the required 40 ratifications. As of October 2023, the UNTOC has 147 signatories and 190 parties, including India.
Key Features of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC)
●The UNTOC is a global treaty that addresses a wide range of transnational organized crimes, including but not limited to drug trafficking, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, money laundering, cybercrime, environmental crime, arms trafficking, and terrorism.
●It recognizes the evolving nature of organized crime and provides a framework for dealing with various forms of criminal activities.
Definition of Organized Criminal Group
●The treaty defines an organized criminal group as a structured group consisting of three or more persons that exist for a period of time and act together with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes.
●Organized crimes are typically conducted to obtain financial or other material benefits, and a serious crime is defined as an offence punishable by imprisonment for at least four years. This definition helps in identifying and targeting criminal organizations effectively.
●UNTOC promotes international cooperation among its parties. It establishes a framework for mutual legal assistance in the prevention, investigation, prosecution, and extradition of offenders involved in transnational organized crime. This cooperation is crucial to combating criminal networks that operate across borders.
●Parties to the treaty are required to adopt effective measures at the national level to combat transnational organized crime. These measures may include criminalizing participation in organized criminal groups, implementing anti-money laundering laws, protecting witnesses and victims, enhancing the capacities of law enforcement and judicial authorities, and promoting public awareness and education about these crimes.
●UNTOC is supplemented by three additional Protocols that specifically target various forms of transnational organized crime:
○Trafficking in Persons Protocol: Aims to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. It focuses on protecting and assisting the victims of human trafficking while prosecuting the traffickers.
○Smuggling of Migrants Protocol: Aims to prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants and protect their rights during the process.
○Firearms Protocol: Aims to prevent and control the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, their parts, components, and ammunition. It enhances cooperation among the parties to curb the illegal trade in firearms.
Significance of UNTOC
- Recognition of Transnational Nature: The UNTOC acknowledges the global and cross-border nature of organized crime. It recognizes that criminal networks often operate beyond national boundaries, making it essential to have an international response to combat these threats effectively.
- Common Legal Framework: The treaty establishes a common legal framework that all parties can adhere to. This framework provides consistency and clarity in defining and addressing transnational organized crime, ensuring that there are shared legal principles and definitions among participating nations.
- Platform for Dialogue and Cooperation: UNTOC serves as a platform for dialogue and cooperation among its parties. It facilitates diplomatic discussions and collaboration in addressing organized crime issues. Parties can exchange information, share best practices, and work together to combat criminal networks effectively.
- Setting Minimum Standards: The treaty sets minimum standards for national legislation and policies. This encourages countries to align their domestic laws with international norms, promoting a harmonized approach to combating organized crime.
- Enhanced Law Enforcement: UNTOC strengthens the ability of parties to prevent, detect, investigate, and prosecute transnational organized crime. It provides a framework for mutual legal assistance, extradition, and law enforcement cooperation, making it easier for countries to work together in apprehending criminals and dismantling criminal networks.
- Technical Assistance: The treaty supports technical assistance programs, enabling countries with fewer resources to enhance their capacities for combating organized crime. This assistance can include training, expertise sharing, and resource allocation.
- Human Rights Focus: UNTOC places importance on the human rights aspects of transnational organized crime. It ensures that the rights of victims and witnesses are protected, addressing not only the criminal aspect but also the impact of these crimes on individuals and communities.
- Protection of Victims: The treaty recognizes the vulnerability of victims of organized crime, especially in cases such as human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. It includes provisions to protect and support these victims, offering them assistance and legal remedies.
●Organised crime is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that poses a serious threat to the security, stability and prosperity of societies around the world.
○The activities include drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, cybercrime, environmental crime, arms trafficking, piracy, counterfeiting and terrorism.
●It undermines the rule of law, erodes public trust in institutions, fuels conflict and violence, hampers economic development and violates human rights.
●Organised crime groups operate across national borders, exploiting legal loopholes, corrupting officials and using violence and intimidation to achieve their illicit goals.
●Combating organised crime requires a comprehensive and coordinated response from the international community, involving law enforcement, judicial cooperation, intelligence sharing, preventive measures, asset recovery and victim protection.
Steps taken by India to implement the provisions of the UNTOC at the national level
- India signed the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its three Protocols in 2002.
- India has taken several significant steps to implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) at the national level
Enacting Relevant Laws
- India has enacted various laws to combat transnational organized crime, aligning its legal framework with the provisions of UNTOC.
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act (2002): Targets money laundering activities, which are often associated with organized crime.
- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (1967): Addresses various aspects of organized crime, including terrorism.
- Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (1985): Deals with drug trafficking, a common form of transnational organized crime.
- Information Technology Act (2000): Addresses cybercrime, which is a growing concern in the context of organized crime.
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012) and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act (2019): Address crimes against vulnerable populations, reflecting UNTOC's focus on protecting victims.
- India has established specialized law enforcement agencies to deal with various aspects of transnational organized crime.
- Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): Serves as the nodal agency for all dealings related to UNTOC.
- Enforcement Directorate (ED): Investigates money laundering cases, which often involve proceeds from organized crime.
- Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB): Enforces drug laws and combats drug trafficking, a significant transnational crime.
- National Investigation Agency (NIA): Investigates terrorism cases, addressing one of the key areas of concern under UNTOC.
- Cyber Crime Cell: Handles cybercrime cases, including those with transnational dimensions.
Regional and Bilateral Cooperation
- India actively participates in regional and bilateral initiatives to enhance cooperation with other countries in combating transnational organized crime.
- South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters: Promotes regional cooperation in addressing transnational crime.
- Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime, and Illicit Drug Trafficking: Enhances cooperation among countries in the Bay of Bengal region.
- Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism: Strengthens counter-terrorism efforts in the region.
- BRICS Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism: Collaboration with Brazil, Russia, China, and South Africa to combat terrorism, which often has transnational links.
- India-US Counter-Terrorism Joint Working Group: Bilateral cooperation with the United States to address terrorism and related transnational crimes.
- The UNTOC is a comprehensive international treaty designed to combat transnational organized crime by defining criminal groups, promoting international cooperation, requiring national measures, and supplementing its framework with specialized Protocols to address specific forms of criminal activity. It represents a crucial instrument in the global effort to combat organized crime and protect the rights of victims.
Q. What is the significance of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) in addressing the global threat of organized crime, and how does it promote international cooperation among its parties?