TENTH UNITED NATIONS CONGRESS ON PREVENTION OF CRIME AND TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS OPENS IN VIENNA

SOC/CP/216
10 April 2000

TENTH UNITED NATIONS CONGRESS ON PREVENTION OF CRIME AND TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS OPENS IN VIENNA

10 April 2000


Press Release
SOC/CP/216


TENTH UNITED NATIONS CONGRESS ON PREVENTION OF CRIME AND TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS OPENS IN VIENNA

20000410

South African Justice Minister Elected Congress President; Meeting Addressed by UN Deputy Secretary-General, Congress Secretary-General

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

VIENNA, 10 April -- Those fighting global organized crime must also launch a global effort and create effective networks of technical, legal and judicial cooperation, or they would always be one step behind.

This view was expressed this morning by United Nations Deputy Secretary- General Louise Fréchette at the inaugural meeting in Vienna of the Tenth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders.

In her opening address to the Congress, Ms. Fréchette declared that the unprecedented challenges posed by the modern, increasingly global criminal world had led to a clear recognition that no country alone could cope successfully with the growth of transnational crime. Fighting crime in all its forms was an end in itself, because the victims were individual men, women and children who suffered when criminals robbed them of their dignity, basic rights, possessions and sometimes their health, or even their lives. But it was also part of what must be a global effort to create a more peaceful and more prosperous world based on shared values of justice, democracy and human rights for all.

Also addressing the opening meeting, the Congress’ Secretary-General, Pino Arlacchi, who is also Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, said, in the face of a globalized threat from organized crime, it was important to guarantee to the peoples of the world a life under the rule of law. It was necessary to build new and better fences against crime in all its forms and manifestations. The Congress was meeting to ensure justice all over the world. For crime not to go unpunished, it was necessary to ensure that it could not hide in safe havens behind international borders.

In view of spreading corruption, he said, it was especially worrisome that it was also affecting the criminal justice system itself. The recent decision to proceed with the drafting of a convention against corruption was testimony to the magnitude of the problem. Underlining the need for preventive measures, he added, the Congress offered an opportunity to examine progress towards better protection of victims. The related issue of witness

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protection was another area where best practices should be identified and disseminated.

In his statement to the opening meeting, the newly elected President of the Congress, Penuell Maduna, Minister of Justice of South Africa, said that, in the fight against crime, it was necessary to take into account that its impact transcended national boundaries and that crime affected countries in different ways. In that context, the political declaration proposed for adoption at the conclusion of the Congress offered an opportunity to agree on a general framework in preparation for the Millennium General Assembly of the United Nations [September-December 2000], and to express the international community’s resolve to combat crime effectively.

Other statements were made this morning by the Minister of Justice and General Prosecutor of Egypt, Maher Abdel Wahid, who represented the host country at the Ninth Crime Congress five years ago. A keynote address was delivered by Hanna Suchocka, Minister of Justice of Poland.

Other speakers this morning were the representatives of Uruguay (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China); Guatemala (on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States); Austria (on behalf of the Western European and Other States); Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group); and Portugal (on behalf of the European Union and associated States).

The Congress adopted its agenda and rules of procedure and appointed members of its Credentials Committee. Also elected were the Rapporteur- General (Finland) and the President of Committee II (Croatia). Colombia will preside over the high-level segment of the Congress, to be held on 14 and 15 April. The President of Committee I will be elected following consultations among the members of the Asian Group of States.

The week-long Congress, which ends on 17 April, is expected to elaborate a single declaration containing its recommendations on the various substantive items. It will be submitted through the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to the Millennium Assembly. The event is open to all 188 United Nations Member States, accredited non-governmental organizations and relevant intergovernmental organizations.

The Congress will continue its work at 3 p.m. today.

Statement by Deputy Secretary-General

LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General: Due to the process of globalization, it is more important than ever to bring all international partners together in the fight against crime. The opening up of borders, falling trade barriers and the circulation of data around the world at the touch of a button have created new opportunities for increased prosperity, better information and education, and increased involvement of citizens in many areas.

Unfortunately, while there is much to gain by learning to think and act globally, some of those who have come to that conclusion have jumped on the bandwagon of globalization to create transnational criminal networks in order to boost profits from a wide range of illegal activities. To them, opening borders means easier trafficking in women and children for forced labour and prostitution, easier smuggling of drugs and arms, and easier escape from justice. Open economies means more businesses from which to extract bribes, and new shares to be won in illegal markets. Technological progress means new opportunities for child pornography, falsification of documents, and money laundering.

Trafficking in human beings, particularly women and children, is among the most odious, but also among the most flourishing, forms of transnational crime. Each year, against a backdrop of poverty, thousands of women and girls are lured or coerced from their homelands and forced into prostitution; many more children are kidnapped and sold abroad into virtual slavery. Many victims are deprived of their passports, locked up and tortured, or became infected with the AIDS virus. Worst of all, they are often stigmatized and prosecuted, while traffickers go free.

Newer forms of crime, from fraud and computer sabotage to dealing in child pornography, use the Internet to bypass State frontiers. Electronic commerce will soon -- if it has not already -- provide new ways of transferring goods or money to launder the proceeds of crime. Misuses of new technology brings with them unprecedented challenges for law enforcement officials and legislators, who struggle to keep abreast of highly specialized criminals and grapple with incredibly complex jurisdictional and legal issues.

Corruption is yet another major concern for the international community and the United Nations. It undermines confidence in political institutions and weakens democracy. Robbing people of what is rightfully theirs and scaring away investors is the enemy of a healthy economy. In developing countries, it discourages donors, who cannot trust that their aid will reach those it is supposed to benefit. All these factors, especially when combined, have disastrous effects on the stability and prosperity of societies.

On the vicious circle of conflict and crime, parallel economies, arms trafficking and other types of smuggling flourish in times of war, often providing the warring parties with the means to keep the fighting going. Most of that criminal activity is transnational, and it stays behind after the war, undermining efforts to restore stability and rebuild strong societies based on solid institutions and legitimate economic activity.

The unprecedented challenges posed by the modern, increasingly global criminal world has led to a clear recognition that no country alone can cope successfully with the growth of transnational crime. If criminals are going global, those fighting them must also launch a global effort and create effective networks of technical, legal and judicial cooperation, or they will always be one step behind.

Fighting crime in all its forms is an end in itself, because the victims are individual men, women and children who suffer when criminals rob them of their dignity, basic rights, possessions, sometimes their health or even their lives. But it is also part of what must be a global effort to create a more peaceful and more prosperous world based on shared values of justice, democracy and human rights for all. Cooperation in building effective State institutions, promoting transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs, protecting human rights and ensuring that all citizens have a say in decisions affecting their lives will help a great deal in fighting crime.

The newly elected President of the Congress, PENUELL MPAPA MADUNA, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa: The Congress is taking place at a critical junction in the history of humanity, as technological advances are opening more opportunities for criminals, and crime is becoming ever more complex in its scope and proportions. Therefore, Member States are facing the challenge to find creative, workable and credible solutions to strengthen multilateral efforts to combat crime.

The Crime Congress affords the international community an opportunity to take stock and to exchange ideas, experiences and information. It will also allow it to address such relevant questions as crime prevention and fair treatment of offenders and victims in the justice system of the future. The fight against crime goes beyond the issues of law and order; its impact transcends national boundaries. If the fight against crime is to be effective, it is necessary to take that into account, particularly on the multilateral level. It is also necessary to recognize that crime affects countries in different ways. In that context, the political declaration to be adopted at the conclusion of the Congress offers an opportunity to agree on a general framework in preparation for the Millennium General Assembly of the United Nations [September-December 2000] and to express the international community’s resolve to combat crime effectively.

The high-level segment of the Congress is a novel and unique feature, which will bring together the most senior leadership from Member States. The soon-to-be-completed convention on transnational organized crime, together with its protocols, to be followed by the convention on corruption, will put the international community in a stronger position to increase global efforts against crime. It is certain that the Congress will be a resounding success, for nothing can beat the collective will of Member States when they are determined to show that they mean business in tackling serious issues which threaten not only the security of nations, but also civilization itself.

PINO ARLACCHI, Secretary-General of the Congress and Under-Secretary- General, Executive Director and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna: In the face of a globalized threat from organized crime, it is necessary to strengthen the rule of law in the world.

It is the rule of law that holds everybody, including the rulers, accountable to the law. In many societies, there exists a “security vacuum”, which cannot not be filled by economic and political measures alone. Without the strengthening and -- in some cases -- the rebuilding of the criminal justice system almost from scratch, there can be no human security. A stable society can only be guaranteed by a strong, well-funded criminal justice system.

It is necessary to build new and better fences against crime in all its forms and manifestations, and especially against transnational organized crime. While other international bodies deal with the global economy or with issues of war and peace, the Congress is to ensure that justice is done in the world, that crime does not go unpunished, that it cannot hide behind international borders in safe havens.

As some forms of crime have taken on such global dimensions, it is necessary to think in terms of global solutions. In particular, corruption has now become global in nature. If the very institutions which exist to prevent corruption are corrupt themselves, we must indeed go back to the very basics. It could take years to make the necessary changes, but they must be made for peace and prosperity to prevail. The recent decision to proceed with the drafting of a convention against corruption shows the magnitude of the problem. Recognition of this has generated the political will for decisive action. The programme of work of the Congress also includes discussions on community involvement in crime prevention, where it is possible to be optimistic, as there is a growing list of success stories to look at all over the world.

Much remains to be done, however. Despite decreases in crime rates in some countries in the 1990s, the steep increases from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s still have not been erased, and rates are now increasing dramatically in some developing countries and countries in transition. Incarceration rates in a number of countries have also increased steeply in recent years. Those facts underline the need for preventive measures, which will keep people from committing the crime and thus keep them out of prison. There is an urgent need to find all the success stories and to learn from them.

One of the workshops during the Congress will focus on women in the criminal justice system. Gender inequality in society at large is reflected - - perhaps magnified -- in the criminal justice system. Starting with crime prevention and going all the way through the functioning of the criminal justice system, it is necessary to remedy that.

One of the most important elements of the draft convention is its attention to the situation of victims. In far too many countries, there are few, if any safeguards for the rights of victims in criminal proceedings. The Congress offers an opportunity to examine progress made towards better protection of victims. A related issue of witness protection is also addressed in the draft convention. That is another area where best practices need to be identified and disseminated.

One of the cross-cutting issues in transnational crime is money laundering, which is by no means a new form of crime, but now thrives in the world of electronic banking. Such enormous amounts of money are involved -- the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mentions the staggering figure of $600 billion per year -- that a reaction is setting in and the United Nations is now an important part of this reaction. Just 10 days ago, 36 offshore banking jurisdictions had agreed to cooperate with the United Nations to bring their standards up to the international norm. There remain some 20 additional jurisdictions to reach with this new programme, called the Offshore Forum. Needless to say, not all money laundering uses offshore facilities. “On shore” centres are used even more frequently. It is incumbent on every government to apply the existing standards, for dirty money should find no shelter anywhere.

Humankind is entering a new millennium with new tools at its disposal, including a new convention. These tools constitute a basis for a forward- looking and pro-active strategy, which should be built to counter the new challenges. The goal is the rule of law at both the national and the global levels.

HANNA SUCHOCKA, Minister of Justice of Poland: Crime prevention should have the widest possible scope and, above all, involve young people. The necessity of creating and implementing crime prevention programmes stems not only from moral commitments, but is also indispensable due to the growing costs of combating crime. Fighting contemporary crime requires law enforcement agencies to be organized just as efficiently as organized international crime, which is already comparable to international business corporations. Its advantages over civil society lie in its non-conformity with any laws.

Whether or not the fight against that phenomenon is successful depends on comprehensive cooperation. No strategy for fighting organized crime can be separated from the international plan since that category of crime can be prevented neither by borders nor by legislation in individual countries. After all, criminals acting in organized groups unreservedly take advantage of those legal provisions that limit cooperation between prosecuting bodies and obstruct joint international actions. New threats should mobilize States to step up efforts to develop joint strategies transcending hitherto delimited boundaries -– a strategy that would make it possible to outpace constantly evolving forms of crime.

The Congress should re-analyse the existing model of cooperation among States and share experiences in the areas of legal aid, extradition and technical cooperation. That will enable participants, on the one hand, to identify the weak links of that cooperation and find ways to eliminate or modify them. On the other hand, it will help them to define areas of cooperation that deserve to be further cultivated. It might be worth considering whether or not to base that cooperation on new assumptions and to forego certain traditional attributes of States. The setting up of ad hoc international penal tribunals and efforts towards establishing the International Criminal Court are first steps in that direction.

Regarding the rights of crime victims, the problem has often been underestimated. Guaranteeing the proper treatment of victims by law enforcement and judicial organs should be seen as one of the weapons in the fight against crime. Perhaps the time has come to change the 1985 United Nations Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power into a new, legally binding instrument of international law. It is undoubtedly a challenge of the twenty-first century to create action- oriented strategies in order to equalize the internal security standards of States and to develop effective police and judicial-administrative structures based on the principles of the state of law.

MAHER ABDEL WAHID, Minister of Justice and General Prosecutor of Egypt: Combating the crime phenomenon is a common concern of the whole of humankind. Egypt had the honour of hosting the Ninth Crime Congress [in 1995], which produced resolutions promoting the rule of law and recommended measures to combat crime at both national and international levels. That Congress also focused attention on many important issues, including those of national criminal justice systems and violence against women.

Organized cooperation is a precondition for future efforts. In view of the development of transnational organized crime, it should become a priority for the international community now. Combating terrorism should also be included among the priorities. This month, the Afro-European Summit held in Cairo welcomed Egypt’s initiative to hold an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations to stamp out terrorism, which is a threat to all societies.

All countries have been trying to further efforts against organized crime. This requires continued development of legislative structures and prevention efforts in all countries. It also implies international cooperation at all levels. It is necessary to inform people about the dangers of organized crime to mobilize efforts to combat that phenomenon. The United Nations should undertake that role. At this point, it is necessary to move from general statements to pragmatic and particular programmes before international crime spirals out of control. It is also important to alleviate the financial and technical burden of least developed countries to enable them to fight organized crime. A common future of peace, justice and fairness has its roots in the rule of law and human rights.

FRUCTUOSO PITTALUGA FONSECA (Uruguay), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China: Provision of technical assistance to developing countries is essential to enable them to reinforce their democratic institutions, guarantee the independence of their judicial systems, implement international norms in the administration of criminal justice, and prevent the marginalization of minorities and all discrimination against them.

The battle against organized crime will remain inconclusive if its causes are not addressed. Steps are necessary to strengthen international economic cooperation to foster more equitable growth and development in the developing countries. Furthermore, the main objective and core premise of the convention and its protocols should be to promote international cooperation through partnership based on shared responsibility and respect for the principles of sovereignty, equal rights and non-intervention.

Particular attention should be paid to assisting developing countries and those in transition to fight against the increasing trafficking and abuse of drugs. The Group of 77 and China are also concerned by the trafficking of persons, particularly women and children, and the smuggling of migrants. Concerted action should also be taken to prevent the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms and ammunition.

In order to establish equity in the judicial process, it is necessary to encourage more use of practical reparative justice and substitution measures, instead of criminal prosecution and incarceration. Concrete measures should be taken to address the serious problem of overcrowding in prisons. Appropriate technical assistance should also be provided to address juvenile criminality through better opportunities for young people. More opportunities should be given to communities to participate in the formulation of crime prevention policies.

FEDERICO ADOLFO URRUELA PRADO (Guatemala), on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States: A criminal justice system that operates smoothly is important. The impartial functioning of such a system would bring about better participation by the community it served. Training, exchange of information and transfer of technology should be part and parcel of technical assistance to help States to strengthen their criminal justice systems.

The Group of Latin American and Caribbean States is aware of the problems faced by criminal justice systems, such as prison overcrowding and the backlog of legal proceedings. They favour alternatives to incarceration, especially in the case of minors. To expedite the administration of justice, the Congress should contemplate such settlement methods as mediation, with special emphasis on the protection of victims and their families and the rehabilitation of offenders.

Insufficient attention has been paid to the rights of victims and their families. They should be offered appropriate support services, information on advancement in their cases and the legal right to privacy and redress. Steps must be taken to address the problems of racism, xenophobia and violation of the human rights of migrants. Crime should be approached from a comprehensive angle to include prevention and rehabilitation. The elimination of inequity would hugely benefit the fight against crime.

IRENE FREUDENSCHUSS-REICHL (Austria), speaking on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States: Austria has high hopes for the outcome of the Congress as a result of the spirit of cooperation and professionalism that had prevailed in the pre-Congress consultations. Austria welcomes all delegates to the Vienna International Centre.

MENBERE ALEMAYEHU (Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the Group of African States: The international community is resolute and unified in its resistance to crime in all its forms and manifestations. The Congress will construct instruments empowering countries in their fight against crime. The African Group attaches paramount importance to the implementation of the recommendations of the African regional preparatory meeting held in Kampala in 1998. Crime can be reduced or eliminated through concerted international efforts. For that reason, the African Group fully supports the theme of the Tenth Congress.

International cooperation is the only way of combating transnational organized crime. Special attention should be given to the situation of the developing countries in that respect. The world is beleaguered by terrorism, and it is necessary to enhance efforts to combat terrorist crimes. It is important to identify obstacles to progress in international cooperation to eliminate the financial sources of terrorist activities. In that regard, the last Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), held in Algiers in July 1999, adopted a convention to combat terrorism in all its forms. The African Group strongly supports the initiatives to convene an international conference on terrorism under the auspices of the United Nations.

Money laundering and corruption also pose great challenges to national economies, security and well-being. Developing countries should receive assistance to combat corporate crimes, committed mostly by organized crime syndicates based in developed countries. To prevent the proliferation of firearms, which present a big problem in Africa, the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention Programmes should continue the work of drafting new instruments on the prevention, control, trafficking and manufacturing of firearms. It is important to address the increasing number of children and minors involved in conflicts and wars. Effective community participation and development of culturally sensitive initiatives should be emphasized for effective crime prevention. To promote the rule of law, States should be provided with required technical assistance to strengthen their democratic institutions. The African Institute for the Prevention of Crime also needs support from the international community and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, as well as the Centre for Crime Prevention and Drug Control.

JOAO ROSA LA (Portugal), on behalf of the European Union and associated countries: The Union is fully committed to the general theme and topics of the agenda as decided by the General Assembly. It also underlines the involvement of civil society in the Congress in the framework of the ancillary meetings.

The European Union will engage in the work of the Congress during the next few days, with a view to improving and enhancing international cooperation in the field of crime prevention within the framework of the United Nations.

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For information media. Not an official record.