Expert Meeting on Developing a Regional Mechanism for International Cooperation in Criminal Matters to Address Transnational Organized Crime in Eastern Africa

Judith Zanzibar

Mechanism of the conference:
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in conjunction with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has organized an “Expert Meeting on developing Regional Mechanisms for the International Cooperation in Criminal Matters to address Trans-National Organized Crime in East Africa” which was held from 10-13 June 2014 in Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania. The ACSRT was represented at the meeting by Ms. Judith van der Merwe, counter-terrorism Analyst at the Africa Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT/CAERT) responsible for East and southern African regions. Other invitees were from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi, Seychelles, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania, Djibouti, Namibia, Burkina Faso, IGAD, EAC, WACAP, Interpol, Euro-just, UNODC, Indian Ocean Commission, and ARINSA, and various UN agencies.

Purpose of the conference:

The purpose of this meeting, was to discuss the setting up of a regional network of central authorities responsible for international cooperation in criminal matters and prosecutors specialized in organized crime (especially drug trafficking) for purposes of facilitating the requesting and granting of quick, effective international cooperation such as extradition and mutual legal assistance. Such a network could ultimately be connected to other regional networks such as the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors1 and the Network of Prosecutors specialized in Organized Crime (REFCO) in Central America with the aim of extending those established cooperative links.

The purpose of such a network, will be, to strengthen knowledge and capacities in the area of judicial cooperation in criminal matters within the region and to support capacity-building for the prosecution of drug trafficking and other forms of cross-border crimes.

The conference also aims at building upon existing UNODC programmes and strategies including those contained in the Global Programme to Assist Member States to Support Capacity to Prevent and Combat Organized and Serious Crime (The Global Programme against Organized and Serious Crime) by introducing uniformity and standardized approach in implementation of similar or related programmes and projects, and benefitting from knowledge and expertise accumulated in-house. The Global Programme against Organized and Serious Crime has as objective the establishment and support for the implementation of networks of central authorities’ and prosecutors, as well as law enforcement actors.

The aim is also to eventually enhance Eastern African region response capacity to address inter-regional transnational organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking. The Regional Program for East Africa focuses on Promoting the Rule of Law and Human Security in Eastern Africa, and especially its sub-program on countering illicit trafficking in and various forms of organized crime. It was identified as the main vehicle for service-delivery to countries within the East African region.

The Way Forward
In order to enhance awareness about the economic, social, health and security impact of serious and trans-national organized crime activities, among policy-makers and to secure political commitment and support for criminal justice initiatives, States of the region should, in cooperation with regional and international organizations as well as civil society, intensify awareness raising activities (e.g. sensitization campaigns, participation in meetings, inclusion in training programmes etc.), for policy makers and other relevant stakeholders about the types of crimes and the negative impact of these crimes at national and regional levels;
States should ratify and implement existing regional and international treaties and instruments and recommendations of international and regional bodies as appropriate.

Where needed, the States of the region should strengthen and harmonize national legislation with the requirements of regional and international Conventions, Treaties and other international legal instruments. Amongst the legal instruments that can be very useful are the AU Model Law and the AU Plan of Action . There should be the possibility of institutionalizing these central authorities where the need arises.

The States of the region should establish an informal network/mechanism for international legal cooperation for central authorities and prosecutors modeled after and building on other existing regional and thematic networks, including in particular the Indian Ocean Judicial Commission, the Sahel Judicial Platform, the West Africa Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors, Eurojust and ARINSA;
In order to improve the capabilities of the Central Authorities, States should harmonize procedures for international cooperation in criminal matters in the region;
States in the region should consider improving coordination between the various regional organizations and the United Nations and other international organizations;
States need to give support to inter-regional cooperation, targeting source and destination countries, through the linking of judicial cooperation networks;
Tools should be developed that are tailored to the needs of practitioners in the region to facilitate international cooperation in criminal matters and other areas related to organized crime and terrorism;
States in the region ought to consider establishing law enforcement cooperation mechanisms, such as National Fusion Centers and Trans-National Organized Crime Units (TOCU’s), for the collection, analysis and sharing of criminal intelligence. In this regard the AU African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism can be an invaluable tool through their Focal Points and existing Fusion Centers to expand the intelligence gathering and research capabilities of States in the region in so far as Transnational Organized Crime is concerned.