Development of the National Drug Law Enforcement Strategy (LAO/I95) on-going


Brief Description of the Project

The Project on the Development of the National Drug Law Enforcement Strategy was designed to improve the structural and operational capacities of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies in the Lao PDR to combat drug trafficking and related crime.  The project aims to establish a comprehensive framework for drug law enforcement and capacity building through revising laws on criminal matters, elaborating the National Drug Law Enforcement Programme Strategy, training judiciaries and law enforcement officers, and strengthening national and international cooperation.  The I95 project, which started its activities in 2008, is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010.

Current Situations and Relevance of the Project

Due to its central location and the rapidly emerging economies of some its neighbors, The Lao PDR has become dangerously affected by transnational threats from organized criminal groups.  In most cases, criminals engaged in cross border operations are well organized with sophisticated modus operandi.

It is frequently alleged that increased operations of transnational organized criminal groups in or through the Lao PDR are closely linked to terrorist operations in and beyond the region.  Though Laos is a small landlocked country in Southeast Asia, its geographical and socio-economic parameters have made it indispensable for the operation of transnational criminals connected with terrorist activity within and out of the region.

In order to equip itself with effective legal tools to combat looming threats posed by transnational organized crime, including persistent drug trafficking and newly emerging types of crime, the Government of the Lao PDR has ratified or acceded to three UN drug conventions, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and all of its three protocols, as well as eight instruments out of 16 UN treaties against terrorism.  In addition, Laos has recently ratified the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in September 2009.  The Lao Government also approved the National Drug Control Master Plan as the national comprehensive strategy to combat drug trafficking.  Despite this commitment by the Lao PDR Government, the country is crippled by insufficient capacity to implement international treaties in terms of organizations and human resources, coupled with a serious lack of financial resources to support the needed capacity development.  In addition, corruption in Government authorities further hinders the Government's already weak capacity.

UNODC Laos Country Office has been assisting the Lao criminal justice sector in combating transnational organized crime.  As part of the Country Office's technical assistance efforts, the I95 project aims to strengthen the capacities of the judicial and law enforcement authorities of the Lao PDR to combat drug trafficking and related crime.  The project has already sensitized the Government on the threats of transnational organized crime and related phenomena such as money laundering, corruption and terrorism, and facilitated technical-level coordination on crime issues among relevant authorities through establishing the Sub-Working Group on Crime (SWGC).  The I95 project will further strengthen its assistance to the Lao criminal justice sector through providing sustainable frameworks and tools for effective response to transnational organized crime, including the National Drug Law Enforcement Programme Strategy, the guidebook on investigation and prosecution of drug trafficking cases, and training on enforcement of national laws and international cooperation.

Focusing on development of the capacity of the Lao criminal justice sector to effectively suppress transnational organized crime, which may be frequently linked to terrorism, the I95 project is relevant to the German fund to support the global anti-terror strategy of the United Nations.

Achievements of the I95 project

Since the beginning of the project period in 2008, the I95 project has raised awareness among legal and law enforcement officers and the general public on the threats of transnational organized crime that inevitably accompany rapid emergence of the global and regional economies to which the Lao PDR's economic development is closely linked.

In order to further develop the momentum in the vigorous fight against transnational organized crime initiated by the above-mentioned awareness raising activities, the I95 project has also assisted the Lao Government in:

-establishing the Sub-Working Group on Crime, the forum of criminal justice authorities for strengthened coordination, in October 2009,

-capacity development for judicial and law enforcement officers on practical skills for investigation and prosecution of organized criminal activities, such as financial investigation techniques and drug case prosecution based on the current laws and,
-ad-hoc assistance on matters related to criminal justice, such as international networking among relevant authorities on terrorism and assessment of anti-corruption legislation, upon request.

Way Forward

-The I95 project will further focus on developing strategies and mechanisms for effective suppression of transnational organized crime as well as develop develop tools for effective response to transnational organized crime by the criminal justice sector.

-The I95 project will strengthen capacity development activities for law enforcement officers and judicial officers to enforce current national legislation on drug trafficking and other serious crimes of transnational nature in line with international instruments to which the Lao PDR is already a party.

-The I95 project will continue awareness-raising for Government officials in need, in order to implement the international instruments on criminal justice which Laos has ratified.

Expected Outcomes

1. The National Drug Law Enforcement Programme Strategy, which includes counter-terrorism consideration, is developed.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Programme Strategy will identify priority areas for fight against transnational organized crime.  Such priority areas would include organized crime's linkage with terrorism, money laundering, corruption, international cooperation in criminal matters (mutual legal assistance and extradition) and development of modern criminal justice legislation.

2. Coordination on the Governmental response to transnational organized crime among relevant authorities is strengthened and continued on a regular basis.

SWGC is expected to facilitate such intra-Government coordination.  SWGC will be a forum for information exchange, strategy discussion, technical assessment and resource mobilization.

3. Network between the Lao criminal justice authorities and their counterparts in neighboring countries is enhanced.

Exposure to practice and experience in relatively developed neighbors through study tours and regional meetings will enhance Lao official's awareness and networks between them and their counterparts.

4. The capacity of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges to investigate and prosecute cases of drug trafficking and organized crime is strengthened.

Capacity development will be pursued through training with guidebooks for investigation and prosecution based on interpretation of current legislation in line with international instruments to which the Lao PDR is a party.

5. The Lao Government is aware of need to prepare new legislation to incorporate the requirements of the international instruments on criminal justice which Laos has ratified, and has acquired technical capacity to prepare such legislation.

Continued awareness-raising and training will enhance Government officials' understanding of the international instruments and what needs to be done for preparing new legislation.

6. Lao citizens' access to the criminal justice system is improved.

Citizens will be less likely to be victims of crime when law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges will acquire sufficient capacity to render proportionate penalties to criminals through training on application of the current legislation in line with international standards.  They will be also become able to contact relevant authorities for assistance when they have acquired knowledge on drugs, crime and relevant laws.