UNODC Promotes Effective Regional and International Cooperation Mechanisms to Investigate and Prosecute Radiological and Nuclear Crimes

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It is no secret that terrorists and other criminals are actively seeking nuclear and other radioactive material for malicious purposes, and the nature of this threat is transnational. The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT), as well as other international legal instruments on nuclear security such as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, are essential tools for preventing and suppressing terrorist and other criminal conduct involving nuclear or other radioactive material and improving nuclear security worldwide. These instruments can benefit all States Parties by facilitating international cooperation, including assistance with nuclear forensics, exchange of information through competent authorities and liaison points, prosecution and extradition.

On 30 May–1 June 2023, UNODC co-organized the tabletop exercise “Snow Leopard” in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which aimed to identify and demonstrate effective regional and international cooperation mechanisms for investigating and prosecuting radiological and nuclear crimes. The exercise was a joint product of the Governments of Tajikistan, the Netherlands, Romania, and the United States of America, in cooperation with UNODC and UNOCT. It brought together over 50 experts from border control, customs, regulatory authorities, law enforcement, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and other relevant agencies from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Romania, Tajikistan, Türkiye, Turkmenistan, the United States of America and Uzbekistan as well as from UNODC, INTERPOL and other UN organizations.

During the three-day exercise, participants enhanced their knowledge and capacities in the following areas:

- Applicability of criminalization and international cooperation provisions of ICSANT and other legal frameworks, benefits and challenges in preventing, responding to, and prosecuting offences involving nuclear and other radioactive material;

- Exchange of effective models of leveraging nuclear forensics support and the necessary considerations for its application to investigate radiological or nuclear crimes or terrorist acts; and

- Advantages, downsides and tangible ways of improving the use of various information-sharing mechanisms in support of criminal investigations involving nuclear and other radioactive material, including the sharing of nuclear forensics data to strengthen investigations of terrorist acts and other crimes and enhancing regional and international security cooperation.

The exercise was conducted in English and Russian with simultaneous interpretation and was co‑funded within the framework of the EU-funded project on “Promoting Universalization and Effective Implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism”.