High-level segment of Crime Congress hears call for 'spectacular breakthroughs' towards concrete action against offenders

Photo: UNIS17 April 2010 - Delegates at a special, three-day segment of the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice urged members this afternoon to take concrete action in the next five years, building upon "spectacular breakthroughs" on controversial issues relating to the prosecution, sentencing and custody of offenders, and on a possible new treaty on emerging forms of transnational offences such as cybercrime.

Addressing the high-level segment, which runs from 17 to 19 April, Congress President Luiz Paulo Barreto, Brazil's Minister for Justice, pointed to growing links between organized crime and conventional crime, saying its impact was evident in the illegal drug trade, saying that by taking advantage of corruption within States, international crime syndicates had succeeded in weakening law enforcement, with armed violence producing discernible effects on human, social, political and economic development.

He noted that States were unanimous in their stance against transnational organized crime, agreeing that the best way forward was establishing a cooperative network against it. The Congress itself was an example of such cooperation, demonstrating the ability of States freely to discuss controversial themes, which in turn had already translated into "spectacular breakthroughs".

But many States still lacked a culture of cooperation, noted Gilson Dipp, Brazil's National Inspector of Justice. Speaking alongside Mr. Barreto, he stressed the need for more agile communication between judges from different countries, but admitted that, even with sufficient mutual trust between judges from nation to nation, lack of knowledge about various tools for international cooperation could be an obstacle.

In the face of such challenges, Argentina's representative said, it was important for States to set a clear agenda for the next five years. He said criminal justice policy had long been the realm of academics, jurists and politicians, calling on Governments to step up to the plate and turn ideas into reality. States needed clear definitions for criminal behaviour and the right kind of punitive response for various crimes. However, they should resist the temptation to criminalize -- and thus punish -- all anti-social behaviour as a first response, he emphasized.

A major concern was the uneven pattern of sentencing, whereby punishment was most frequently and intensely imposed on the most vulnerable segments of the population, whose crimes tended to be minor in comparison with those that got away. A top priority of the Argentine Government was to prosecute crimes against humanity committed under the last military dictatorship, including forced disappearances, he added.

The Special Representative of the United States Secretary of State called on the international community to ready itself for new forms of transnational crime, in which organized networks of criminals demonstrating ever-increasing sophistication and global reach were converging and reinforcing each other, collectively manipulating financial markets, engaging in money-laundering and smuggling illegal goods worth billions of dollars around the globe. Countering such threats was important, but success in doing so would require shared responsibility and partnerships, she said. One task for the Twelfth Crime Congress was to translate from words into action international agreements such as the Convention on Transnational Organized crime, with its 154 States parties, and the Convention against Corruption.

John Sandage, Executive Secretary of the Crime Congress, said that with a week of intense deliberations behind them, political leaders would, in the next two days, have a chance to provide further impetus to the strengthening of crime prevention and defining the legacy of Salvador by adopting a common declaration.

Also delivering statements during the ceremonial opening of the high-level segment were Fernando Schmidt, Chief of Staff to the Governor of the hosting Brazilian state of Bahia, and Gilmar Mendes, President of the country's Supreme Court.

Other speakers today were Government Ministers and other senior officials from Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Zimbabwe (on behalf of the African Group), Finland, South Africa, Azerbaijan, China, Qatar, Philippines, Morocco, Portugal, Mexico, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

The Congress also head from the representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China) and Argentina (on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States).

In other business, the Congress elected Alina Popescu of Romania as Rapporteur-General, by acclamation.

The Crime Congress will reconvene at 10 a.m. Sunday, 18 April, to continue its high-level segment.

Summary of all speeaches in the high-level segment

For further information:

To download the press kit and other information (also in Portuguese), visit:
For live webcast: www.un.org/webcast/crime2010

All stories