Eurojust and WACAP meet virtually to discuss Judicial Cooperation in prosecuting Transnational Organized Crime

On October 27th, UNODC ROSEN  facilitated  a virtual meeting  between  Eurojust - the European Union agency administered by National judicial authorities of the member States, with the mandate to provide Criminal justice across borders through interaction between judicial authorities (including judges, prosecutors and police officers) - and the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors (WACAP) focal points in order to identify initial  steps towards an enhanced international judicial Cooperation regarding transnational Organized crime, including Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM). WACAP focal points from Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Benin, and The Gambia participated in the meeting, along with Eurojust national members from Italy, Spain, France, and Slovakia.

For the first time, a virtual platform enabled an exchange of information, best practices and lessons learned between the European Union member States and WACAP countries on the prosecution of transnational Organized crime, including on cases of TIP and SOM. West and Central African region is faced with many challenges related to Transnational Organized Crime particularly Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) as well as corruption which enables these phenomena to thrive. Despite constant efforts by individual states to deal with these challenges, the problem continues to persist with associated negative consequences for the region (as origin and transit countries) as well as destination countries, mostly in Europe.

The ability of concerned States to assist each other in preventing, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants is of paramount importance to combat these crimes in an effective manner. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) provides Member States the appropriate legal basis for international Cooperation in criminal matters. As the guardian of the Organized Crime Convention and the Protocols thereto, UNODC’s core mandate is to advocate for their full use and implementation and the strengthening of Member States’ capacity to counter all forms of organized crime globally.

In this context, UNODC started the PROMIS project, an initiative jointly implemented with OHCHR that aims at countering TIP, SOM and related crimes, while promoting the protection of the human rights of victims and migrants in West African countries. To strengthen international judicial cooperation, the initiative supports the deployment of African liaison magistrates (LMs) to European countries with the objective of establishing a direct channel of communication between countries of origin, transit and destination of TIP and SOM and to better handle and overcome obstacles to the execution of requests for mutual legal assistance (MLA), in line with article 18 of the UNTOC.

The UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, Dr. Amado de Andrés, stressed that: “West and Central African countries are facing many challenges in the area of judicial Co-operation in the prosecution of transnational organized crime, including trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants due to differences in languages, legal systems and lack of data . According to the latest UNODC global report on Trafficking in Persons (2020), published in 2020, 13% of victims are from the West and Central Africa region.”

The Virtual event concluded with a set of follow up actions agreed by all the participants that included, among others: 1) the need to implement stronger information exchange mechanisms; 2) to involve WACAP focal points in the Eurojust “focus group” of investigative judges and prosecutors specialized in SOM and TIP to foster exchange of information and best practices; and 3) to expand the Liaison Magistrate initiative at the regional level.