The organized crime has “ballooned to global proportions” said today Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at the opening session of the 5th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime. A decade after the adoption of the Palermo Convention as it is also known, states parties are meeting in Vienna from 18 to 22 October to review global progress in fighting this scourge. He stated that the convention was a powerful but underutilized tool. 157 States have ratified the instrument, which forms the global basis for extradition and mutual legal assistance. Mr. Fedotov remarked that more awareness was needed of how states could make more effective use of the convention and realize its potential for cooperation.
The convention provides new possibilities and frameworks for law enforcement agencies to coordinate their efforts, including trans-border intelligence sharing and joint investigations.
It is highly adaptable in providing effective responses since its definition of transnational organized crime is broad enough to encompass new and emerging forms of crime. With its detailed measures to combat money-laundering, go after plundered assets and to end banking secrecy, UNTOC can be used to hit criminals where it hurts – by helping cut off their cash lifeblood.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs Amina Mohamed was elected as a President of the COP (Conference of State Parties) to the UNTOC for a term of two years.
Eight vice-presidents, who are the resident ambassadors from Italy, representing the Western Group (WEOG), Kazakhstan and Indonesia representing the Asian Group, Romania and Poland representing the East European Group (EEG); Mexico and Argentina are representing Latin American Group (GRULAC); Algeria representing the African Group; and a Rapporteur from the United States of America who is a representative of (WEOG) were elected during the opening session of the conference.
During a press conference held at the UN office in Vienna, Yury Fedotov stated that the drug trafficking continues to be the most lucrative line of business for criminals. As UNODC reported in its 2010 transnational organized crime threat assessment, Cocaine trafficked from the Andean region to North America and Europe is worth $72 billion annually, and Heroin trafficked from Afghanistan to Europe has a street value of $33 billion.
Combined, these figures exceed $100 billion, money diverted from the United Nations development goals and which are invested in criminal businesses or used to fuel terrorism. Or, to put it another way: cocaine and heroin traffickers are earning almost $280 million every day, almost $12 million every hour, and almost $200,000 every minute.
Spontaneously Mr. Fedotov looked at the watch he wore on his hand and said that “during the 20 minutes since we started this conference, the smugglers of drugs have earned four million dollars”. Underscoring the need for robust regional responses to stem illicit activity, Mr. Fedotov concluded “we also need a comprehensive, system-wide response that strengthens resistance to organized crime at its points of origin, along trafficking routes, and at the final destinations for its illicit goods”.
During the press conference the speakers stated that they coordinate their effort with the Interpol Police organization to decrease transnational organized crime.
The historical heritage of Palestine is destroyed in Jerusalem
Dr. Ali Khashan, the Palestinian minister of justice, appealed to the conference participants, the states parties meeting in Vienna and all international organizations during a speech delivered at the noon session. He said: “we put together a draft of the law of cultural heritage in Palestine and we call on you to stand by the Palestinian people to preserve our historical and humanitarian heritage, which is being systematically targeted and destroyed, including even the historic graveyard which has existed for more than a thousand years. We need your strong support to maintain the cultural property in Palestine, especially in the occupied city of Jerusalem”. (Click on the picture to make it bigger).
He added: “I would also like to call your attention to the significant threat posed by the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and what the colonist squatters carry out by uprooting the Palestinian trees and destroying their plants, including the historical olive trees. I also want to call your attention to the wall erected by Israel in the West Bank and particularly in the city of Jerusalem and its negative and destructive effects on life and the environment in Palestine.
Dr. Ali Khashan stated that the new Palestinian penal code, which will enter into implementation after signature by the President emphasized the fight against the organized crime and illicit trafficking, including trafficking in organs and humans as well as smuggling in all its forms and manifestations. The Palestinian National Authority issued a money laundering law which fights against money-laundering crimes and “offenses”.
Dr. Khashan said: “in this context, we wish to emphasize our support for the recommendations and resolutions adopted by the meeting of 19 of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice relating to the prevention of trafficking and protection of cultural property and international cooperation to combat such crimes in all the world, including the disputed areas, especially in the occupied Palestinian territories”.
He pointed out that a Palestinian penal code draft has the protection of women and the abolition of the discriminations that were affecting women, especially the so-called honor crimes, and that the Palestinians work with all their efforts to support and empower women not only in Palestine but in the bilateral relations and regional framework. He stated that no society can advance without justice for women and the lifting of all restrictions that hinder legislative progress in this regard.
Dr. Khashan emphasized the recommendations and decisions of the 19th meeting of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, particularly the resolution on the strengthening of measures taken in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice to address violence against women, especially in conflict zones, including the occupied Palestinian territories. He confirmed that the Palestinians were one of the initiators and signatories to all agreements made in the framework of the League of Arab States, as well as judicial and legal regional cooperation agreements which fight against crime, and we are in Palestine are ready to sign on all the international conventions that fight crime and prevent criminal trafficking in all its forms and manifestations.