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The proposal for a Latin American and Caribbean Criminal Court against Transnational Organized Crime reaches the United Nations General Assembly (December 2017)

by Florencia Gor, Past-President, Democracia Global Argentina and a current member of the Executive Committee, WFM –Canada

This past September the Vice President of Argentina gave new impulse to the campaign during her speech at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. The campaign for the establishment of a Latin American and Caribbean Criminal Court against Transnational Organized Crime (known as COPLA, its Spanish acronym) was initiated four years ago, when the Argentine NGO Democracia Global hosted a panel to discuss supranational approaches to the critical situation of violence and crime in the region. Since then, it has received the endorsements of a significant number of parliamentarians, public prosecutors and academics, and has built strong civil society support around the world.

The envisioned Court, based mainly on the 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention) and its three supplementary Protocols, would prosecute the leaders of criminal organizations. The tribunal would be complementary with domestic law and would initially have jurisdiction over seven core crimes, including drugs and human trafficking, money laundering and transnational bribery.

The proposal also includes a regional agency to coordinate intelligence efforts, share information among national prosecutors’ offices, protect witnesses and harmonize legislation among the member

In 2014, the Argentine Senator Gabriela Michetti was the first politician to publicly join the campaign, presenting a resolution in the Senate that was unanimously approved. Now, as Argentina’s Vice
President, she has confirmed the President’s willingness to lead efforts in the region towards the establishment of the Court. In her September statement at the opening of the 72nd UN General Assembly, Michetti
said, “the fight against drug trafficking is one of the three pillars of the President’s program. Redoubling the international commitment to tackle this scourge is essential. In this sense, we are working to find the
consensuses to constitute a Latin American tribunal against organized crime in our region.“

Three Argentine Ministries have taken the lead and are coordinating efforts at the national level: Justice and Human Rights, Foreign Affairs and Security. Their representatives presented the initiative at a public
event on November 16th, together with the Director of the campaign, newly elected parliamentarian Fernando Iglesias and Prof. Christian Cao, who led the team that worked on the draft statute. Held at the
University of Buenos Aires Law School with extensive media coverage, the presentation was attended by prestigious members of the legal, political and academic fields. Other members of the government,
including the Speaker of the Senate, have recently briefed the Secretary General of the OAS, the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO) and the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EUROLAT)
about COPLA.

Despite the progress made by Latin American and Caribbean countries in several socioeconomic areas over the last few years, the region remains the most violent in the world. Its homicide rate of approx. 24 per
100,000 population is four times the global average. The region holds only 9% of the world’s population but accounts for one third of its murders.

COPLA side event at the UN

In December the Argentine mission at the UN and the aforementioned ministries co-sponsored a side event during the meeting of the Assembly of State Parties to the International Criminal Court. This offered a
unique opportunity to present the COPLA proposal to legal experts from civil society organizations and other UN member states, particularly some of the Caribbean countries that fought so strongly for the
establishment of the ICC and had wanted to include some of these crimes in the Rome Statute back when discussions started in 1989. Their enthusiasm and experience are invaluable at this stage. The mission
also aims to host a meeting next year to generate further discussions and coordinate a roadmap with representatives of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC).

In an era marred by resurgent nationalism and threats to multilateral agreements, COPLA represents an opportunity for supranational cooperation that would greatly improve citizens´ quality of life. Criminal
organizations understand the globalized nature of the world in the 21st century and are using it on their advantage. Unilateral approaches can never effectively put an end to their practices.

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