Monthly Archives: December 2017

West Africa: UNODC promotes regional cooperation in human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases

UNODC, Kenya hold inter-regional conference to counter the world drug problem. Photo: UNODC21 December 2017 – In West Africa, as in many other regions, successful prosecution of human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases can be difficult and complicated. Differences in legal systems, institutions and languages as well as serious resource constraints hinder cooperation efforts, thus limiting effective results.

With a view to addressing human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants in the region, UNODC recently hosted a workshop promoting regional cooperation for members of the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors against Organised Crime (WACAP).  Held in Vienna, the two-day event brought together over 20 participants from eight West African countries: Mali, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, the Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal.

In his opening remarks, Ilias Chatzis, Chief of UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, described the promotion of regional cooperation as essential given WACAP countries’ migration links to Mali and Niger for human trafficking and migrant smuggling routes.

The workshop focused on several issues, including core concepts in addressing human trafficking cases; international cooperation instruments such as UNODC’s Mutual Legal Assistance Request Writer Tool; and regional cooperation in West Africa. In the discussions, many participants emphasized the need to overcome challenges such as language and legal system differences, as well as complex evidence collection in transnational organized crime cases.

Karen Kramer, Coordinator of UNODC’s Serious and Organized Crime Programme, noted that cooperation was critical in obtaining information and evidence, which are necessary to investigate and prosecute cross-border crimes. She highlighted that the WACAP network facilitates coordinated action and the resolution of obstacles.

Throughout the event, national experts called upon WACAP and the UNODC-led Global Actions against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) to strengthen capacity on evidential basis. This is on the basis that many cases often fail to meet the threshold for conviction due to lack of understanding and capacity of law enforcement and prosecution officials.  National experts also requested further training on the newly updated Mutual Legal Assistance request writer tool.

Representing the European Union Delegation, Lambert Schmidt explained the bloc’s new communiqué on trafficking in persons. He underscored the need to disrupt the modus operandi of traffickers, strengthen victims’ rights and intensify internal and external efforts to provide a coordinated and consistent response.

UNODC, through its global programmes, supports Member States in their fight against human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The workshop was organized under the framework of GLO.ACT and the Global Programme to Assist Member States to Strengthen Capacities to Prevent and Combat Organized and Serious Crime (GPTOC).

Further information:

2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons

UNODC’s work on Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants

The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT)

The Global Programme to Assist Member States to Strengthen Capacities to Prevent and Combat Organized and Serious Crime (GPTOC)

West African Central Authorities and Prosecutors against Organized Crime (WACAP)          

West African Central Authorities And Prosecutors  Against Organized Crime (WACAP)

Mutual Legal Assistance Request Writer Tool

Philippine ferry capsizes with 251 aboard

NNA – A Philippine ferry carrying 251 people capsized on Thursday off an island south of Manila, the capital, a coast guard spokesman said, amid a storm bringing heavy downpours.

Three people were killed in the accident, domestic radio said. Rescue operations were hampered by bad weather and huge waves caused by a typhoon in the south.

Coast guard boats and army helicopters rushed to the vicinity of Polilio island in the province of Quezon to rescue passengers, taking advantage of daylight, spokesman Armand Balilo said on television.

“We heard about casualties, but we are still trying to get a complete picture,” Balilo said, adding that the ferry, which had the capacity to carry 280 people, had not been overloaded.

Boat accidents are common in the Philippines, which is frequently lashed by storms and typhoons. —Reuters

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South Korea fires warning shots after North soldier defects

NNA – South Korean soldiers fired 20 warning machine gun rounds Thursday, turning back North Korean soldiers apparently pursuing a comrade who had earlier dashed across the rivals’ shared border, officials said. It is the fourth time this year a North Korean soldier has defected across the world’s most heavily armed border.

South Korean military officials said they heard gunfire from the North after South Korea fired its warning shots, but it wasn’t clear if the firing was retaliatory. Neither side immediately reported casualties.

North Korean soldiers occasionally flee over the land border, but there have been few defections as dramatic as one that happened nearly 40 days ago, when a northern soldier crossed at a different, very public place – a jointly controlled area that is the only place where troops from the rivals face off only feet away from each other. That soldier was shot five times by his former comrades in an escape caught on video. He has been recovering in a hospital. The site of that defection is familiar to many foreign tourists, who can visit the blue huts that straddle the line between the rivals.

Thursday’s defection happened at a much more remote section of the 4 kilometer (2.5 mile)-wide, 248-kilometer (155-mile) -long Demilitarized Zone, which serves as the border between the Koreas. When the defecting soldier – reportedly a 19-year-old – arrived at a front-line South Korean guard post, there was no shooting from the North, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. Spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said the motive for the defection is under investigation.

Later Thursday, however, South Korea’s military detected several North Korean soldiers approaching the line between the countries in the DMZ, prompting the South to broadcast a warning and fire 20 warning shots, said a South Korean defense official, requesting anonymity because of department rules.

The North Korean soldiers who approached the line were believed to be on a mission to hunt down their defecting comrade. They turned back to the North after the South’s warning shots, the official said. About 40 minutes later, soldiers twice heard several rounds of gunshot on the North Korean side of the border. No North Korean bullets were found in the South, the official said.

The latest defection was the fourth North Korean soldier to flee through the DMZ this year, the Defense Ministry said. About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea mostly via China since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

In a separate incident, two North Korean men found aboard a wooden boat off the east coast on Wednesday asked to resettle in the South, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Animosities run high on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea has been accelerating its weapons tests as part of its stated goal of achieving a nuclear missile capable of striking anywhere in the United States. Last month, North Korea test-fired its biggest and most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date. —-Associated Press

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BAN ON HARVESTING OF ROSEWOOD STILL IN FORCE― OWUSU-BIO

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has not granted permit to any company to harvest rosewood in any part of the country, a Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, yesterday, disclosed on the floor of Parliament.

Mr Owusu-Bio explained that there were companies whose permits were supposed to have expired by 31st December 2016, but were still operating after that date.

He was answering a question posed by Dr Clement Apaak, Member of Parliament for Builsa South, on the grant of approvals and permits to companies to salvage rosewood in any part of the country.

According to Mr Owusu-Bio, the Ministry had constituted a taskforce to assess the situation and provide recommendations on how to enforce the ban on further harvesting of rosewood.

Subsequently, he said, the Forestry Commission had also been directed to sanitise operations in the sector.

He disclosed that a large number of rosewood logs had been lying in various locations across the savannah and transitional zones, and that as a short term measure to prevent the logs from losing their economic value through bushfires and harsh environmental conditions, some companies were granted approval to salvage the lying logs.

Mr Owusu-Bio said a total volume of 54,183 cubic meters had been salvaged and corresponding revenue of Gh¢ 6,502,027 had accrued.

He said as a medium-term measure to control further harvesting of rosewood, arrangements were being made in collaboration with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) and Civil Society Organizations to introduce a quota system that will regulate how much rosewood was exploited at a given period.

He disclosed that a policy on Tree Tenure and Benefit Sharing for trees outside the forest was being discussed to motivate farmers to resist the illegal exploitation of rosewood and other tree resources on their farms and stop speculative felling by illegal operators.

Going forward, he said, the Forestry Commission would collaborate with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to effectively implement the measures.

Source: ISD (Eva Frempon-Ntiamoah)

South Sudan: First UN safe haven for displaced civilians closes

20 December 2017 &#150 The first ‘Protection of Civilians’ site – a place of refuge and safety set up next to a United Nations base in South Sudan – has been successfully closed after internally displaced families expressed the desire and confidence to return to their homes, the UN mission in the country said Wednesday.

“It’s gratifying to finally see people feel safe enough to go home,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer.

“There is conflict across much of South Sudan where people fear for their lives. But in some areas, like Melut, we are able to help people out of the camps back to their communities,” he added.

The world’s youngest country, South Sudan has spent much of its short life mired in conflict, riven by a political face-off between President Salva Kiir and his then former Vice-President Riek Machar that erupted into full-blown war late in 2013.

The site, next to the UN base in Melut in the Upper Nile region, had provided sanctuary to hundreds of families since the conflict broke out four years ago in the world’s youngest nation.

Over the past week, these families have been returned to their homes with the assistance of UNMISS and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in partnership with other humanitarian agencies.

VIDEO:The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, closed one of the sites where it was providing sanctuary for families in the wake of the conflict that broke out four years ago.

Of the 562 recently registered, most chose to settle in Melut town given the improved security situation there. Approximately 255 were relocated elsewhere with some choosing to shift to the Malakal site because of personal protection needs while others moved home to Renk, Ulang, Maban and Wau.

There has been significant consultation with the community and humanitarian agencies about the relocation process and ensuring the families continue to receive assistance for returns.

The protection of civilians is primarily the South Sudan government’s responsibility but, in many cases, people have fled from government security forces.

UNMISS provides sanctuary to almost 210,000 internally displaced people at seven locations across South Sudan. These camps are a last resort and exist only to shelter people who genuinely fear for their lives.

“We will look at every camp individually to see if the conditions allow people to return home voluntarily and safely. Where these conditions exist, we will try to assist people back,” said Mr. Shearer. “Camps are not a long-term solution and certainly not the right place to bring up children or live with dignity.”

The closure of the site at Melut will enable the peacekeeping troops based there to shift their focus from guarding the camp to increasing patrols in the surrounding area. Extending their protective presence into other communities will save lives and build confidence so that, over time, more people will feel safe enough to return home.