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UN Treaty Aimed At Fighting Organized Crime Goes Into Effect - 2003-09-28

A new treaty described as a landmark in the global fight against organized crime goes into effect Monday.

The U.N. drugs and crime office said 147 nations - including China, Russia, the United States and most Latin American countries - have signed the first legally-binding convention against trans-national organized crime. The treaty obliges states to adopt joint crime control measures against money-laundering, corruption, the obstruction of justice and taking part in an organized criminal group. It defines a criminal group as three or more people working together to commit serious crimes for material benefit, such as kidnapping for ransom, a problem in some Latin American countries.

The treaty sets new rules on extradition and joint investigations, so that criminal activities can no longer be obscured by bank secrecy.

The U.N. said organized criminal groups are using new communication technologies to make enormous profits from the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings, especially women and children.

According to the United Nations, around 50,000 women and children are taken each year to the United States alone and forced to work as prostitutes or as servants. Eduardo Vetere, director of the UNODC Center for International Crime Prevention, says there are additional legal agreements in the treaty to combat this. "One of the specific offenses, for which there is also an additional protocol, because there are details, which could not be covered by the convention, is the protection against trafficking of human beings," he said.

Mr. Vetere said other protocols are going into effect regarding the smuggling of migrants and illegal trafficking in firearms.

The United Nations plans an international conference next year in Vienna to see how the convention is working.