United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

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United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
Type Organized crime; international criminal law
Drafted 15 November 2000
Signed 12 December 2000
Location New York City, United States
Effective 29 September 2003
Condition 40 ratifications
Signatories 147
Parties 186
Depositary Secretary-General of the United Nations
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) is a 2000 United Nations-sponsored multilateral treaty against transnational organized crime. The Convention was adopted by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on November 15, 2000, with the aim of promoting cross-border cooperation in tackling organized crime.[1] The UNTOC is also known as the Palermo Convention, obtaining three protocols, known as Palermo Protocols: [2]

  • Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children
  • Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air.
  • Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms

The Convention came into force on September 29, 2003. As of January 2015, it has 185 parties,[2] which includes 180 United Nations member states, the Cook Islands, the Holy See, Niue, the State of Palestine, and the European Union. The 13 UN member states that are not party to the Convention are: (* indicates that the state has signed but not ratified the Convention)


The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force on 29 September 2003, on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the fortieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, in accordance with its article 38. With each protocol requiring the same number of parties for entry into force, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, entered into force on 25 of December 2003; the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, entered into force on 28 January 2004; and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, entered into force on 3 July 2005. [3]

Transnational Organized Crime[edit]

The UNTOC does not contain a precise definition of 'transnational organized crime'. Nor does it list the kinds of crimes that might constitute it.

This lack of definition was intended to allow for a broader applicability of the Organized Crime Convention to new types of crime that emerge constantly as global, regional and local conditions change over time..

The Convention does contain a definition of 'organized criminal group'.[attribution needed] In Article 2(a):

  • a group of three or more persons that was not randomly formed;
  • existing for a period of time;
  • acting in concert with the aim of committing at least one crime punishable by at least four years' incarceration;
  • in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.

Since most 'groups' of any sort contain three or more people working in concert and most exist for a period of time, the true defining characteristics of organized crime groups under the Convention are their profit-driven nature and the seriousness of the offences they commit.

The UNTOC covers only crimes that are 'transnational', a term cast broadly. The term covers not only offenses committed in more than one State, but also those that take place in one State but are planned or controlled in another.[attribution needed] Also included are crimes in one State committed by groups that operate in more than one State, and crimes committed in one State that has substantial effects in another State.

The implied definition 'transnational organized crime' then encompasses virtually all profit-motivated serious criminal activities with international implications. This broad definition takes account of the global complexity of the issue and allows cooperation on the widest possible range of common concerns. [4]

Obligations of the UNTOC[edit]


In general terms, the Convention calls for effective measures to promote integrity and to prevent the corruption of public officials and specifically calls for public authorities to be provided with adequate independence in order to deter the exertion of inappropriate influence on their actions. [5]


As part of the Convention’s international framework for addressing transnational organised crime, requires States Parties to criminalise corruption, focusing particularly on bribery of public officials. It also calls for effective measures to detect and punish the corruption of public officials and specifically calls for public authorities to be provided with adequate independence in order to deter the exertion of inappropriate influence on their actions. [6]

Anti-Money Laundering[edit]

UNTOC also requires criminalisation of money laundering and the establishment of a domestic regulatory and supervisory regime for banks and other financial institutions to combat money laundering. States are also called on to fight corruption in the private sector. [7]

International Cooperation[edit]

To fulfil its aim of addressing cross-border aspects of organised crime, UNTOC provides for a broad framework for mutual legal assistance, extradition, law-enforcement cooperation and technical assistance and training. This international cooperation has the potential to improve mutual law enforcement assistance, notably in extradition and investigations. These provisions provided the basis for the international cooperation provisions in the UN Convention against Corruption. The provisions are largely mandatory and cover specific aspects of law enforcement cooperation such as extradition, gathering and transferring evidence, assisting investigations and prosecutions. They include requirements that states parties consider joint investigations, special investigative techniques and the transfer of criminal proceedings. [8]

International Cooperation[edit]

Transnational organized crime requires a coordinated transnational response. As organized criminal networks span the globe, efforts to combat them must likewise cross borders so as to ensure that organized crime networks do not simply divert their activities to countries or regions where weak cooperation means weak criminal justice responses.

The key feature of the UNTOC is its emphasis on international cooperation, in particular in the area of cooperation in criminal matters, but the Convention also contains provisions which aim to facilitate and promote international cooperation in other ways.

International Cooperation in Criminal Matters[edit]

International cooperation against organized crime should, as a matter of urgency, be conceived and used as a tool for strengthening sovereignty and security, not of surrendering it.[attribution needed] The UNTOC provisions on mutual legal assistance (MLA), extradition, transfer of sentenced prisoners, and asset confiscation make it a practical tool in this area.

States can use the UNTOC to cooperate at both informal and formal levels using the UNTOC.[attribution needed] Informal cooperation can be undertaken in many ways, such as between law enforcement authorities to share criminal intelligence, between witness protection authorities to cooperate in the protection of witnesses and between financial intelligence authorities to share information concerning financial crimes.

At the formal level, State Parties can use it to request and deliver MLA, extradition, freezing and confiscation of criminal proceeds. State Parties may also use it - either alone or in conjunction with other mechanisms - to supplement bilateral and multilateral MLA and extradition agreements and to supplement thematic multilateral agreements.[9]

Emerging Crimes of the 21st Century[edit]

Transnational organized crime groups seek to exploit legitimate activities for criminal purposes. The ways in which they are reaping profit are becoming more creative. As organized crime groups join ever more complex networks spanning the globe, the crimes become increasingly transnational and the types of crime they are able to commit become diversified. New threats to global security are emerging, meaning that people can fall victim to organized crime in an increasing number of ways, in an increasing number of places.[attribution needed]

In 2010, the fifth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime identified cybercrime, identity-related crimes, trafficking in cultural property, environmental crime, piracy, organ trafficking, and fraudulent medicine as new and emerging crimes of concern. The emergence of these new crime types gives rise to the need for law enforcement response to adapt its efforts and capacities accordingly.[10]

Crimes include:

Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto[edit]

Pursuant to article 32 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, a Conference of the Parties to the Convention was established to improve the capacity of States Parties to combat transnational organized crime and to promote and review the implementation of this Convention.

First Session Second Session Third Session Fourth Session Fifth Session Sixth Session Seventh Session
Vienna Vienna Vienna Vienna Vienna Vienna Vienna
June 28-July 29, 2004 October 10–21, 2005 October 9–16, 2006 October 8–17, 2008 October 18–22, 2010 October 15–19, 2012 October 6–10, 2014

The Conference has established five working groups which focus on specific areas of its work. All five have recently met in 2015.[attribution needed]

  • Third session of the Working Group on Firearms, Vienna, 9 June 2015.
  • First session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Meeting to Explore All Options Regarding an Appropriate and Effective Review Mechanism for UNTOC and the Protocols thereto, Vienna, 28–30 September 2015.
  • Sixth session of the Working Group on International Cooperation, 27–28 October 2015.
  • Sixth session of the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons, Vienna, 16–18 November 2015.
  • Third session of the Working Group on the Smuggling of Migrants, Vienna, 18–20 November 2015. [11]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]