UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

5th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

Vienna, 18-22 October

A large delegation from the Academic Council on the United Nations System attended the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime held in Vienna, 18-22 October.  It was an important meeting for the United Nations for it was the ten review conference of the impact of the Palermo convention which has sought to confront human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, and trafficking of firearms. Many countries spoke of the measures taken nationally to implement the Convention and the protocols.  In the end the Conference did decide to adopt a review mechanism.  However, this intergovernmental mechanism  should be non-adversarial and non-punitive, non-intrusive, have a balanced geographical approach, take into account levels of development, and not produce any form of ranking.   A group of 50 non-governmental organizations, in a joint statement in the high level segment, had called for an independent expert review body, consultation with NGOs and victims of trafficking, thematic reviews (the protocols cover widely different topics), and a transparent reporting and follow-up mechanism similiar to human rights bodies.
This open approach was not accepted, although an Implementation Oversight Group will conduct periodic evaluations and report to the Conference on challenges encountered.

ACUNS distinquished itself by organizing two excellent side events.   One chaired by Maxilimian Edelbacher, former Police Chief of Vienna, openly discussed organized crime, white collar crime and corruption in Europe (particularly in Austria, Germany and Italy).  He was joined by Peter Pilz, Austrian parliamentarian, Max Peter Ratzel, former chief of EUROPOL, Petra Reski, journalist and best selling author on mafia organizations in Germany, Prof. Bojan Dobovsek of Maribor University who spoke of the new criminal political class in the Balkans, Professor Anije Antinori, of University of Sapienza, expert on the mafia in Italy, and Antony Mills, of the International Press Institute.  In the end, one was left with the impression that only the media could expose the close ties between organized criminals and politicians.

The other ACUNS side event, organized by Karin Bruckmuller of the University of Vienna, urged the reconsideration of the prosecution of minor offenders who are trafficked or coerced into prostitution, stealing, or drug selling in order to convict the higher level criminals involved in trafficking  operation.  She was joined by Euridice Marquez, Counter Trafficking Coordinator from the International Organization for Migration, Professor Janice Joseph from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Stefan Schuman from the University of Graz, and Michael Platzer from ACUNS as chair.   This provoked a lively discussion with policemen  who found it difficult to excuse offenders and victimologists who said a new category of “offender/victim” was being created and the actual victims (persons robbed, drug addicts) were being forgotten.
One of the most moving interventions in the plenary (trafficking victims also spoke) was from the actor, Nicholas Cage, who visited a sixteen year old “sea pirate” now condemned to spend the next several decades of his life in a dungeon in Mombasa.   The problems are not simple, particularly if poverty and a hopeless situation are involved.   Black and white rhetoric are not useful.

Better understanding of the “push and pull” factors of organized crime is necessary to prevent its various forms.  Building up the entire justice system is necessary, particularly in post conflict societies, and regulating  economic activities even in prosperous countries.   ACUNS participants also contributed to discussions of filling gaps in implementation (Gap analysis), training, statistics, small arms survey (gangs and armed groups), peacebuilding, and in a dialogue with the new Executive Director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.

Article from ACUNS

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