The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), also known as the Palermo Convention, is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organised crime. The Convention, which entered into force on 29 September 2003, is further supplemented by three protocols which target specific organised crime areas.
What is the effect of the Palermo Convention?
The Convention facilitates international cooperation between Member States in tackling global organised crime. Member states commit to taking significant measures including:
- The creation of domestic criminal offences (participation in an organised criminal group, money laundering, corruption and obstruction of justice)
- The adoption of new frameworks for extradition, mutual legal assistance and law enforcement cooperation
- The promotion of training and technical assistance for building or upgrading the necessary capacity of national authorities
The Convention is supplemented by three Protocols: the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition. Countries must become parties to the Convention itself before they can become parties to any of the Protocols.
On its website, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime explains the key provisions of the Protocols.
Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
This Protocol entered into force on 25 December 2003. It is the first global legally binding instrument with an agreed definition on trafficking in persons. The intention behind this definition is to facilitate convergence in national approaches with regard to the establishment of domestic criminal offences that would support efficient international cooperation in investigating and prosecuting trafficking in persons cases. An additional objective of the Protocol is to protect and assist the victims of trafficking in persons.
Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air
This Protocol entered into force on 28 January 2004. A major achievement of the Protocol was that, for the first time in a global international instrument, a definition of smuggling of migrants was developed and agreed upon. The Protocol aims at preventing and combating the smuggling of migrants, as well as promoting cooperation among States parties, while protecting the rights of smuggled migrants and preventing the worst forms of their exploitation which often characterise the smuggling process.
Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition
This Protocol entered into force on 3 July 2005. The objective of the Protocol, which is the first legally binding instrument on small arms that has been adopted at the global level, is to promote, facilitate and strengthen cooperation among States Parties in order to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.
By ratifying the Protocol, States make a commitment to adopt a series of crime-control measures and implement in their domestic legal order three sets of normative provisions, being the establishment of:
- Criminal offenses related to illegal manufacturing of, and trafficking in, firearms on the basis of the Protocol requirements and definitions;
- A system of government authorisations or licensing intending to ensure legitimate manufacturing of, and trafficking in, firearms;
- A system to manage the marking and tracing of firearms.