23 June 2021
Organized Crime: West African Response to trafficking (OCWAR–T) organized a regional consultation workshop in collaboration with the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors (WACAP) on the development of model guidelines, revision of existing legal frameworks, and strengthening regional judicial cooperation networks. The participants of the workshop were WACAP focal points, representatives of West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO), ECOWAS Commission, GIZ/OCWAR-T, GIZ police program, and several UNODC officials. The overarching goal was to identify regional and international cooperation arrangements for combatting transnational organized crime in the ECOWAS countries, challenges faced within the MLA and extradition process, and discuss the further steps for enhancing judicial cooperation at both national and regional level.
Brief opening remarks and moderation were ensured by Mr. Pius Ukeyima Akutah, Chief State Counsel of Nigeria. Mr. Akutah noted several challenges that undermine the efforts addressing transnational organized crime in the ECOWAS region (i.e. political fragility, systemic corruption, lack of political will) and stressed the need to strengthen the cooperation between law enforcement and judiciary and make use of existent regional judicial networks to prevent and combat organized crime more effectively. Furthermore, it was pointed out the perspective of revising current legal instruments for judicial cooperation and developing model guidelines to enable better coordination between law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.
Thereafter, the representative of the GIZ Police Programme presented the ongoing initiative led by GIZ to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the ECOWAS countries aimed to assist and guide law enforcers dealing with transnational organized and serious crime cases. The establishment of SOP must rely on adequate methodologies and laws that need to be efficient and consistent with current challenges and threats. Said prerequisites were noted as instrumental in pursuing effective investigation and prosecution of cross-border crime offenses.
The WACAP focal points introduced the legislative framework for judicial cooperation applicable in their countries; pinpointed various challenges encountered within the MLA and extradition process and highlighted examples of best practices.
Key recommendations stemming from the meeting focused on the importance to criminalize certain illicit activities to enable the application of the double criminality principle; to conclude mutual agreements on judicial cooperation in criminal matters with other countries to expedite mutual legal assistance and extradition process and to promote initiatives aimed to enhance informal collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.