Statement by Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation Republic of South Africa, high-level meeting of the General Assembly on transnational organized crime, pursuant to resolution 64/179(2009), crime prevention and criminal justice United Nations, New York, 21 June 2010
Allow me at the outset to express my delegation’s sincere appreciation to the President of the General Assembly for convening this Special High-level Meeting on Transnational Organized Crime, an issue to which my Government attaches great importance.
Transnational organized crime is yet another additional burden to the multitude of threats and challenges that continue to face the international community. These threats come with costs, with their corrosive effect on national and regional economies as well as on our individual and combined developmental efforts that we as Member States have to address. Criminality, in particular organized crime, associated corruption and violence are major impediments to development, especially amongst African and other developing nations. Not only does investment potential decrease, but revenue losses are sustained equally in both the government and private sectors, poverty eradication is set back once more and the dislocation of potential work forces add to economic pressures. The social bill also starts to add up when the degradation of human dignity and the abuse of human rights of victims of crimes such as trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants are to be considered, which invariably affect the most vulnerable of societies, namely women and children.
We can however interpret as supportive the positive trend towards achieving universal adherence to and implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols, if we are to consider that approximately 154 Member States from all regions of the world are presently state-parties to the Convention. In this 10th commemorative anniversary of the signing of the Convention, we are encouraged that in this short space of time we have already incorporated three protocols with an unambiguous intention to amongst others i) facilitate convergence in national approaches and preventative mechanisms as well as to ii) strengthen cooperation – clear signals of the long and non-discriminatory reach of transnational crime. The challenges of transnational organized crime can be mitigated if governments and the international community including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, support efforts directed towards security and justice for all by making the world a safer place from international crime as laid out in the UNODC 2008 – 2011 strategy. To achieve this objective, we need to encourage universal implementation of the Convention and its Protocols as well as the promulgation of relevant, national legislative and administrative measures.
International co-operation, in particular bilateral and regional treaties on extradition and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters are key tools in fighting transnational organized crime. The South African Government has observed with interest the emergence of agency-to-agency co-operation mechanisms especially in Europe. It should be noted that South Africa as a member of the Commonwealth and as provided in some bilateral and regional treaties to which we are signatory, subscribes to the notion of Central Authority as a mechanism and channel to co-operate on extradition and legal assistance in criminal matters. The agency-to-agency and the Central Authority approaches work better for different regions and States. What is required though is to ensure speedy assistance, which could be facilitated by a list of contact persons of those States subscribing to the notion of Central Authority.
There is much work being done at the regional and sub-regional levels which would merit attention especially for purposes of cooperation and international best practice models. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has developed regional arrangements and instruments on corruption, extradition and mutual legal assistance. We have already reaped the benefits of a regional police cooperation arrangement, particularly in the form of joint investigations and operations. In March 2009, delegates from law enforcement and prosecution agencies from eight countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe) met in South Africa to discuss the creation of a new network of investigators and prosecutors working on cases involving the identification, tracing, freezing, seizure, confiscation and recovery of proceeds and instrumentalities of crime. The Asset Recovery Inter-agency Network of Southern Africa (ARINSA as it became known) will increase the effectiveness of Members’ efforts, both individually and collectively, on a multi-agency basis.
While States are encouraged to ratify international agreements and adopt appropriate national legislation, the international community must also be encouraged to augment national capacities through the provision of relevant technical assistance, expertise and the requisite infrastructure. Member States and relevant international funding organizations must be encouraged to provide financial and technical assistance. This is indeed an area with many challenges, especially in developing countries. The provision of technical assistance is a crosscutting issue strongly needed for the universal implementation of the Convention and its Protocols. Additionally, the exchange of intelligence on organized crime is of crucial importance – this should include the exchange of technical know-how in the field of communications and electronic surveillance, especially in the areas of cybercrimes and the building of intelligence databases.
My Government notes with appreciation the planned, open-ended Working Groups of Government Experts on extradition, mutual legal assistance and international cooperation for purposes of confiscation and the open-ended Working Group on Technical Assistance in particular. In addition, the promulgation of uniform legislation or legislation meeting the threshold of the Convention and its Protocols is also a challenge. Therefore, technical assistance to States in need thereof is of critical importance.
South Africa will continue to improve its national legal framework in criminalization of organized criminal groups, money laundering, racketeering and gang-related activities. We have enacted the Prevention of Organized Crime Act, the criminal Procedure Act as well as the Financial Intelligence Center Act to strengthen the criminalization of money laundering. Our attention also focuses on taking the proceeds of crime from criminals, through an Assets Forfeiture Unit, regardless of where they may be hidden. It is for this reason that our country has pledged its support to an initiative such as the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative aimed at recovering stolen assets and returning them to their legitimate countries. Regarding the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, South Africa has tabled a bill in Parliament in March 2010 that will deal comprehensively with human trafficking in al its various forms. This legislation provides for the protection of and assistance to victims of trafficking. South Africa is also compliant with the Firearms Protocol which requires State parties to criminalize the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components of ammunition. In line with Article 8 of the UN Protocol which places an obligation on all manufacturers to mark a firearm as part of their production process, South Africa has commenced with a comprehensive and unique marking system.
In concluding my delegation looks forward to the possibility of a mechanism to test modalities in reviewing the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols. On this note, I would like to reaffirm our continued support to the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
I thank you!