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“Criminal groups have wasted no time in embracing today’s globalized economy and the sophisticated technology that goes with it. But our efforts to combat them have remained up to now very fragmented and our weapons almost obsolete. The [UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime] gives us a new tool to address the scourge of crime as a global problem. With enhanced international cooperation, we can have a real impact on the ability of international criminals to operate successfully and can help citizens everywhere in their often bitter struggle for safety and dignity in their homes and communities.”

Source: Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Foreword to United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto (New York, United Nations, 2004).


As organized criminal groups increasingly operate across borders, international cooperation in criminal matters is key to dismantle them. When criminal justice practitioners need to obtain information or persons from other jurisdictions to prosecute cases, they may resort to different forms of international cooperation, such as mutual legal assistance or extradition.

Mutual legal assistance in criminal matters is a process by which States seek and provide assistance in gathering evidence for use in criminal cases. Extradition is the formal process whereby a State requests the enforced return of a person accused or convicted of a crime to stand trial or serve a sentence in the requesting State. Click here to access the UNODC Manual on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition.

Unfortunately, inadequate legal frameworks, differences between legal systems, different languages, a lack of experience, and limited knowledge about legal principles or the requirements of other states often makes these processes in Southeast Asia and the Pacific cumbersome, slow and ineffective. To overcome these challenges, informal communication, regular contacts, trust, and mutual understanding between countries, e.g. through networks of criminal justice practitioners, in addition to legislative and technical assistance, can help facilitate international cooperation in criminal matters.


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In response to requests from Southeast Asian countries, UNODC supported the establishment of the South East Asia Justice Network (SEAJust) in 2020. SEAJust is a judicial cooperation network that serves as an informal platform facilitating direct contact and communication between central authorities for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. As of 2023, the members of the network are nationally appointed contact points of 17 countries:

  • Australia
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Lao PDR
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar
  • the Philippines
  • the Republic of Korea
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • the United States of America
  • Viet Nam

SEAJust is open to any country or territory within and outside the Southeast Asian region.

UNODC acts as the Secretariat of SEAJust and the network’s activities are implemented with the support of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Secretariat.

As of 2023, more than 70 mutual legal assistance requests have been facilitated through SEAJust.

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The aim of the South East Asia Justice Network (SEAJust) is to promote expeditious execution of mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests for all forms of serious and organized crime through formally appointed contact points who serve as “active intermediaries” to facilitate judicial cooperation in criminal matters. [Read more]

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Side-event in the margins of the 31st Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), 19 May 2022
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Click here to access useful tools and resources for international cooperation in criminal matters.