UNODC Enhances Judicial Cooperation Between Africa and Europe

  
        The PROMIS Project is funded by The Netherlands and Italy

The West and Central African region is facing a multi-dimensional security crisis. Terrorism, organized crime, maritime piracy, conflicts over resources and all forms of trafficking appear at an all-time high. Traditional tools have largely proven insufficient against more sophisticated organized crime groups and there is a pressing need for governments, international organizations and practitioners to come up with innovative approaches to effectively tackle the continuously growing threats to the stability of the region.

In this context international cooperation is an essential tool to combat complex organised crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. Indeed, increasing evidence shows the transnational scope of these crimes in the region. However, a lack of familiarity and sometimes outright distrust, the lack of understanding of each other's judicial systems, inefficient channels of communication are among the many obstacles to effective collaboration between law enforcement officers in Western and Central Africa and their European counterparts, when dealing with transnational organized crime.

Human trafficking and migrant smuggling are a clear illustration of the lack of cooperation. Indeed, the large number of victims of human trafficking and migrant smuggling originally from Africa and identified in Italy are staggering, nevertheless, the amount of successful prosecutions against the criminal networks involved in these cases in both continents remain low.

In this context and through the PROMIS project funded by The Netherlands and Italy, the UNODC launched in 2018 an innovative initiative to foster judicial cooperation through the deployment of two Nigerian prosecutors first in Italy and then in Spain.

Following the interest expressed on this initiative by  many other countries, both as deploying or hosting jurisdictions, UNODC jointly with the Syracuse International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, organized a stakeholders meeting to discuss the overall progress made in international cooperation between the participating countries, as well as of the challenges observed and potential improvements for current and future deployments. The meeting, hosted by the Syracuse Institute from 5 to 6 September 2019, gathered the key actors involved in the process including the liaison magistrates themselves, Italian and Spanish prosecutors, representatives from the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice and law enforcement agencies,  EUROJUST Vice-President,  WACAP focal points, experts from UNODC and the Syracuse Institute, as well as the two newly deployed liaison magistrates from Eritrea and Ethiopia.

 

                               
   
Group photo of the stakeholders meeting held in Syracuse from 5 to 6 September 2019.

The meeting found that the two Nigerian "liaison magistrates" have been instrumental in shortening communication channels, advancing the exchange of operational information, and following up on cases between these jurisdictions. As a result, law enforcement authorities in Nigeria, Spain and Italy have been able to identify and arrest suspects, provide evidence in ongoing prosecutions and develop new leads all towards the dismantling of trafficking and smuggling networks operating in all three jurisdictions.  

Most importantly, Dr. Oliver Stolpe, UNODC's Representative in Nigeria, observed that "the direct daily contact between the Nigerian, Italian and Spanish prosecutors has helped to build trust, the most critical ingredient for successful international cooperation in tackling transnational organized crime".

     
  Photo taken during the Meeting in Syracuse.
 
 

 

"Cooperation is not an option". These words, pronounced by EUROJUST Vice-President Mr. Filippo Spiezia in Syracuse, show how bilateral cooperation through the deployment of African magistrates in Europe, as well as regional cooperation through the WACAP or EUROJUST is a must in the fight against transnational organized crime.

This initiative was developed by PROMIS under the framework of the UNODC Regional Programme for West and Central Africa (2016-2020) and contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically to SDG 16.a, which aims to "strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime".

 

For more information:

UNODC's deployment of two Nigerian Prosecutors

WACAP

UNODC Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants

UNODC Regional Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants 2015-2020

UNODC Regional Programme for West Africa (2016-2020)