In Cambodia UN legal chief warns on interference in work of genocide

20 October 2011The United Nations legal chief today strongly urged the Cambodian Government to refrain from interfering in any way with the judicial process relating to the United Nations-backed tribunal set up to try those accused of the worst crimes under the notorious Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s. Patricia O’Brien, the UN Legal Counsel, met with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Phnom Penh, the capital, to discuss recent developments at the tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).Last week Judge Siegfried Blunk, the international co-investigating judge at the ECCC, resigned from the tribunal. He cited repeated statements by senior Government officials opposing the progress of what are known as Cases 003 and 004 – which concern senior Khmer Rouge officials suspected of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.In a statement issued after her meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms. O’Brien voiced concern about recent developments at the ECCC and reiterated the UN’s call on everyone to respect the integrity and independence of the tribunal’s judicial process.“The Legal Counsel strongly urged the Royal Government of Cambodia to refrain from statements opposing the progress of Cases 003 and 004 and to refrain from interfering in any way whatsoever with the judicial process,” the statement noted.“She emphasized the obligation of the Royal Government of Cambodia to cooperate fully with the ECCC.”The tribunal, which uses a mixture of Cambodian and foreign judges and personnel, is tasked with trying those alleged responsible for mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge, which ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. Up to three million people died under the regime in what is widely recognized as genocide. read more


West African stability still endangered by global traffickers warns new UN report

The report, a threat assessment issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and entitled Transnational Organized Crime in West Africa, cautions that the profit from cocaine trafficking alone may still be larger than the national security budgets of several West African countries, causing difficulties for local law enforcement.In addition, it notes that West African criminal groups have become increasingly independent and enterprising in their ability to bring drugs into the region.“Transnational organized crime is clearly a serious threat to West Africa,” Pierre Lapaque, the UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, said in a press statement marking the report’s release. “State institutions and the rule of law are weak in most of these countries and unless these organized crimes are tackled, instability is likely to persist and increase.”According to UNODC estimates, at least 50 tons of cocaine from the Andean countries transit through West Africa every year, heading north to Europe where they are worth almost $2 billion in street value. Most cocaine entering Africa from South America makes landfall around Guinea-Bissau in the north and Ghana in the south and are shipped to Europe via drug mules on commercial flights.The new report points out, however, that cocaine is not the only illicit drug affecting the region. In particular, it cites the “worrying” emergence of methamphetamine production in Nigeria, where two methamphetamine labs were detected in the 2011-2012 biennium, and a growth in trans-regional trafficking with some 3,000 methamphetamine couriers alleged to have transported an estimated $360 million worth of drugs from West Africa to East Africa in 2010. The report says that this is an indication that West African criminal groups are becoming increasingly influential in the transnational drug market. Last July, Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, confirmed to the UN Security Council that with the increased trafficking, production and consumption of drugs, as well as piracy and insecurity, West Africa represented one of the key challenges for his agency as it had steadily transformed from being simply a transit route into a final destination of illegal substances as well.“The complex challenges West Africa faces represent a severe test for the individual countries and for the region as a whole,” Mr. Fedotov said. “UNODC will continue to work with its partners to build the commitment and develop the necessary solutions in this extremely fluid and fast-moving environment.”Other criminal markets are also discussed in the report, including the smuggling of migrants from West Africa to Europe, the trafficking of fraudulent pharmaceuticals from Asia to West Africa, and maritime piracy in the region.The report warns that while the trends and profits for these diverse markets tend to vary, their potential for sowing corruption, political instability, hampering development and promoting conflict remains “too large for the region to deal with on its own.”“West African States need to do more in terms of data collection and sharing, regional coordination in law enforcement and enhanced drug treatment and rehabilitation services, to mention some recommendations,” admits the UNODC report, while noting that the countries in the region are unable to fight the crime epidemic alone.“They will need support from the international community to make substantial progress in reducing the negative impact of transnational organized crime on the region’s development.” read more