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|Tenth Crime Congress to Convene in Vienna from 10 to 17 April 2000|
Transnational Organized Crime, Computer Crime and Corruption Among Key Issues to be addressed.
(Vienna, 6 April) Transnational organised crime will be high on the agenda of the Tenth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders which will convene in Vienna, Austria, from 10 to 17 April 2000. Taking full advantage of the globalization of the world economy and the profound technological advances in transportation and telecommunications, organized crime has profoundly expanded its activities to reap ever-increasing illegal profits.
"The Convention against Transnational Organized Crime will provide us with a major weapon to foster international cooperation in fighting organized crime. Among other things, we hope that the Tenth Crime Congress will be a springboard for speeding the adoption of the Convention later this year," said Mr. Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
Other key issues to be discussed will include new developments in crime prevention; accountability and fairness in the justice process for offenders and victims; the need to combat corruption; and trafficking in human beings -- especially women and children. Additional items on the agenda deal with promoting the rule of law and strengthening the criminal justice system and crimes related to the computer network.
Four technical workshops to be held during the Congress will address computer crime, the question of corruption, community involvement in crime prevention and women in the criminal justice system.
At its conclusion the Congress is expected to adopt a single Declaration to be submitted for consideration and action to the Millennium General Assembly, which meets in New York beginning in September. The Declaration is to emphasize the responsibility of each State to establish and maintain a fair, responsible, ethical and efficient criminal justice system. It places a high priority on the expeditious adoption and entry into force of the draft UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols. The Declaration is also expected to enhance international action against corruption and bribery.
"The United Nations has a special role to play in the era of globalization," according to Mr. Arlacchi. "It can serve as an impartial organization to which countries can look for solutions to trans-border problems, such as organized transnational crime. Criminal justice issues are at the core of the concept of human security."
Fighting Transnational Crime
Once viewed as a local or at most a regional threat, organized crime has become a highly sophisticated transnational affair. As the United Nations 1999 Global Report on Crime and Justice notes: " From the perspective of organized crime in the 1990s Al Capone was a small town hoodlum with restricted horizons, limited ambitions and merely local fiefdom".
Congress participants will review progress on the draft United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, along with its three protocols to combat trafficking in illegal firearms and persons -- especially women and children -- as well as the smuggling of migrants.
Criminal groups traffic in human beings, particularly women and children, for economic slavery and prostitution. They smuggle arms and ammunition, traffic in illegal drugs and nuclear material, commit fraud on a global scale and launder huge sums of money. They corrupt and bribe public officials, politicians and business leaders.
Draft Convention against Organized Crime
Agreeing that organized crime has become too widespread for single Governments to fight, nations have joined forces in proposing the powerful new draft United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. In addition, the Congress will consider its three draft protocols against trafficking in illegal firearms, migrants and persons, especially women and children.
The proposed Convention - currently being drafted by a special committee established by the General Assembly - will be a major item of discussion at the Tenth Crime Congress. The draft treaty should be ready for adoption by the Millennium General Assembly. (The convention and protocols summarized here are still being negotiated and are therefore subject to change.)
Under the proposed treaty, Governments would:
Criminalize offences committed by organized crime groups, including corruption and corporate or company offences;
Crack down on money-laundering and the proceeds of crime;
Speed up and widen the reaches of extradition;
Protect witnesses testifying against criminal groups;
Tighten cooperation to seek out and prosecute suspects;
Boost prevention of organized crime at the national and international levels;
Develop a series of protocols containing measures to combat specific acts of transnational organized crime.
Over the past few years, the Internet has grown explosively. Compared to only 26 million users in 1995, over 200 million people now communicate, shop, pay bills, conduct business and even meet with their doctors online.
As the Internet has expanded, so has its misuse. So-called cyber-criminals roam the virtual world largely at will, committing such crimes as unauthorized access or "hacking", fraud, computer sabotage, drug trafficking, dealing in child pornography, and cyberstalking.
Consumers lose about $500 million per year to hackers stealing credit card and calling card information from online accounts, according to recent estimates. These card numbers may be sold for sizeable amounts to counterfeiters, who use special programmes to encode them on counterfeit credit and bankcard magnetic strips, the UN Manual notes. Computer criminals are as diverse as the offences they commit. They may be students, terrorists or members of organized crime. For economic crimes, such as fraud or the theft of information, the biggest category is in-house employees, who commit over 90 per cent of these offences, according to the 1997 UN Manual on the Prevention and Control of Computer-Related Crime.
Cyber-criminals can zoom across international borders undetected, hide behind countless "links" or simply vanish, leaving no paper trail. They can route communications through or hide criminal evidence in "data havens" -- countries lacking the laws or expertise to track them down.
The workshop at the Tenth Congress is intended to serve as a forum for sharing information about investigative techniques and computer crime laws between countries with a wide range of experience and approaches to the problem.
Economic experts worldwide now agree that corruption -- ranging from bribery and extortion to nepotism -- can have disastrous effects on struggling economies. In one World Bank survey, more than 150 high-ranking public officials and top citizens from over 60 developing nations ranked corruption as the biggest impediment to economic development and growth in their countries.
Corrupt practices drain government coffers, play havoc with free trade and scare away investors. The World Bank estimates that corruption can reduce a country's growth rate by 0.5 to 1.0 percent per year. IMF research has shown that investment in corrupt countries is almost 5 per cent less than in countries that are relatively corruption-free.
Standard and Poor's, the bond rating agency, gives investors a 50 to 100 per cent chance of losing their entire investments within five years in countries with various degrees of corruption. Such odds make long-term investment -- which is of most benefit to a country . risky and unlikely.
As evidence mounts of the huge economic costs of corruption, the United Nations has decided to step up efforts to fight it. A special workshop at this year's Tenth Congress, coordinated by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), will examine corruption at the so-called street, business and top levels.
With crime stubbornly resisting so-called "punitive" efforts to fight it, interest among legal experts has gradually shifted to innovative methods of preventing criminality, rather than punishing it. Several studies have shown that crime prevention can significantly cut down on offences as well as costs.
Crime prevention strategies will rank high on the agenda of the Tenth Congress. Special attention will be devoted to the current status of crime prevention, new challenges in the field and in particular to preventing organized crime.
A workshop jointly organized by the UN Centre for International Crime Prevention and the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC), a non-governmental organization based in Montreal, Canada, and affiliated with the United Nations, will also focus on the topic. The ICPC was set up by several nations to collect information and best practices on crime prevention worldwide.
Delegates to the Congress will zero in on two major avenues of preventing crime that have been explored over the past two decades -- social prevention and situational prevention.
Offenders and victims
Offenders may now have several well-entrenched rights, but a growing number of surveys have revealed widespread dissatisfaction among their victims.
More than 50 per cent of victims around the world are unhappy about the way police treat them, and many others end up severely traumatized by criminal justice systems, according to the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS), which has been carried out in more 60 countries over the past decade.
"If the criminal justice systems of the world were private companies, they would all go out of business, because half of their main customers -- that is, the victims of crime -- are dissatisfied with their services", according to Jan Van Dijk, Principal Officer of the United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention and a key initiator of the ICVS.
Often, victims are denied the right to tell the court in a so-called victim impact statement about any physical or emotional damage wrought by the offender. According to the National Organization for Victims' Assistance (NOVA) in the United States, these statements . which could also influence court decisions -- may be routinely blocked even when they are guaranteed by law.
A major problem with victims' rights is their potential to clash with those of offenders. The UN Declaration supporting justice for the victims of crime and abuse of power, adopted in 1985, and national constitutional amendments stipulate that victims' rights must not interfere with the offender's right to a fair trial.
"The most significant conflict (between offenders' and victims' rights) is that victims are exposed to repeated cross-examination in public about sensitive matters to satisfy the offender's right to a fair trial", states Mr. Van Dijk.
Some nations have experimented with new methods that aim to satisfy both offenders and victims. In New Zealand, "restorative justice" tries to satisfy victims, offenders and their families by bringing them together in informal meetings to discuss the offence. The object of restorative justice is for offenders to compensate victims for damages, with the offender's family sharing responsibility. The method has been successful in juvenile cases, but how it would work with more serious crimes, such as murder or rape, is unclear.
The high-level segment of the Tenth Congress will be held on 14 and 15 April and heads of State or Governments, ministers and attorneys-general are expected to attend. During this part of the Congress, political leaders will have the opportunity to commit themselves to the fight against crime, especially transnational crime, as an integral component of fostering human security.
The Tenth Congress is open to participation by all 188 United Nations Member States accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and relevant intergovernmental organizations.
A list of participants, a press kit and issue oriented reports will be available at the press documents counter.
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