Organised crime profits from vulnerable legal frameworks, threatening the most vulnerable populations and plunging victims into poverty and hardship. A global problem requires a multilateral solution.
In its Resolution 53/111 of 9 December 1998, the United Nations' General Assembly (UNGA) decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental ad-hoc committee charged with elaborating a Convention against transnational organised crime (UNTOC), supplemented by three Protocols:
- to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children (Trafficking Protocol);
- against the smuggling of migrants by land, air and sea (Smuggling Protocol); and
- against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition (Firearms Protocol).
The first formal session of the ad-hoc committee took place in Vienna in January 1999, and in 2000 a comprehensive framework to lead the fight against organised crime: the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), was adopted
This year marked the 20th anniversary of the ground-breaking Convention – and to date, UNTOC remains the sole legally binding instrument to combat transnational organised crime. With 190 State parties, including the European Union and its Member States, it is also the only multilateral protocol of its kind as well as the foremost tool for promoting international cooperation in the prevention and countering of organized crime.
UNTOC aims to enable different countries' law enforcement authorities to co-operate effectively in combating organised crime by eliminating differences and different definitions of crimes among national legal systems, so a crime in one country is recognised as crime in other countries. It is the first legally binding UN instrument in this field. States that have ratified UNTOC are required to ensure that four serious types of crime are regarded as a crime in their domestic laws. These crimes are participation in an organised criminal group, money laundering, corruption, and the obstruction of justice.
UNTOC spells out how countries can improve co-operation on such matters as extradition, mutual legal assistance, transfer of proceedings and joint investigations. It contains provisions for victim and witness protection and for shielding legal markets from infiltration by organised criminal groups.