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Switzerland signs crime-fighting accord

Italy is hosting the four-day conference aimed at fighting organised crime

(Keystone)

The Swiss justice minister, Ruth Metzler, has signed a convention on fighting cross-border crime. Analysts say the agreement will bring other countries' rules more closely into line with Switzerland's.

The Italian government is hosting the four-day conference in the Sicilian city of Palermo. Representatives of 40 countries are present to ratify the United Nations convention against transnational organised crime.

The United Nations' secretary-general, Kofi Annan, said the convention represented a "milestone in the fight for the rule of law".

An official from the Swiss justice department, Christoph Pappa, said the agreement would facilitate judicial cooperation between states and that it was in Switzerland's interest for as many countries as possible to sign the convention.

However, Pappa added that Switzerland would have to make certain adaptations in order for the agreement to come into force.

The convention also deals with extradition, banking secrecy and money laundering.

Mark Pieth, a professor of criminal law at Basel University, told swissinfo that the convention means other countries will have to follow rules similar to those already implemented by Switzerland.

"Switzerland shouldn't have a problem in signing and ratifying the agreement, because we are already on this standard."

The goal of the convention is to establish a legal instrument to fight organised crime that is based on two principles: the harmonisation of national legislation and international cooperation.

Pieth said the practical advantage of an instrument such as the convention is that "it puts countries in a position to help each other even in areas where there wouldn't be mutual legal assistance or an extradition treaty".

The UN General Assembly adopted the convention and its protocols on November 15.

The document is based on the idea that as borders open up, and technology progresses, the proliferation of criminal networks will increasingly threaten global financial stability.

Pieth says an international commitment to uniform legislation will eliminate one of the major obstacles to combating organised crime.

The convention also has three optional protocols. Under these, countries would undertake to combat the smuggling of migrants, the trafficking in illicit arms and the exploitation of women and children as prostitutes and cheap labour.

swissinfo with agencies


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