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U.N. crime-fighting treaty spells disaster for America

By Cheryl K. Chumley
web post April 26, 2004

The United Nations threatens to chip yet again from America's Constitution and its system of individual rights, as a 2000 treaty aimed at combating crime on the global level has reared its menacing head in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, a measure adopted Nov. 15, 2000 at the General Assembly's 55th session and signed by the United States three months later, holds potential to destroy our judicial system, ravage our individual rights to privacy and boost the powers of the international police force – and it now rests in a senate committee, step one toward ratification.

The intent of the UNTOC is to "promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organized crime more effectively." The treaty purports only to concern itself with the prevention of "serious crime" committed by an "organized criminal group" that crosses national boundaries – but herein lies the first of many problems with the document. The treaty does not even clearly define what constitutes "serious crime."

"Serious crime shall mean conduct constituting an offense punishable by a maximum deprivation of liberty of at least four years or a more serious penalty," Article 2 reads.

Look hard at the choice of words, "a maximum...of at least." What does that mean? On one hand, serious crimes are those worthy of at least four years imprisonment; on the other hand, serious crimes are defined as those that are punishable by a maximum of four years imprisonment. Perhaps clarification of what constitutes a serious crime can be derived from the context of other Article 2 definitions.

"Organized criminal group is a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes." Meanwhile, a structured group "does not need to have formally defined roles for its members, continuity of its membership or a developed structure."

If these definitions are meant to lay the basis for the treaty's jurisdication, the document is off to a roaring confusing start that leaves little room for conclusion but that parties to this treaty have an open door to pursue a wide variety of crimes and vast majority of criminals across sovereign bounds.

And it's not that ridding the world of criminals is a bad idea. But how these crimes and criminals, as defined very loosely in this treaty, are actually to be exposed and apprehended leads this nation down a slippery slope of constitutional encroachment, with powers reserved normally to our elected officials and governments becoming slowly transferred to the United Nations.

For proof of this potential, just read the treaty.

Article 7 establishes an international intelligence agency "to serve as a national center for the collection, analysis and dissemination of information regarding potential money-laundering." This U.N. Agency is given authority to regulate and monitor all banks for "suspicious transactions" and to oversee bank customer identification programs.

Articles 9 and 34 intrude upon our sovereign rights to create our own laws by, respectively, requiring treaty participants to "adopt legislative, administrative or other effective measures to promote integrity and to prevent, detect and punish the corruption of public officials," and by mandating each nation to "take the necessary measures, including legislative and administrative measures...to ensure the implementation of its obligations under this convention."

Why do we need the United Nations to tell us how to run our criminal system? This is a constitutional degradation that should not be tolerated, especially from a global entity that is historically incapable of keeping its own nose free of corruption (witness, for example, the on-going Oil for Food scandal).

But wait, there's more.

Article 14 sets up a system of financial incentives for treaty nations to capture criminals and assets. Nations confiscating properties and cash can either donate seized booty to a global account for use by all treaty parties, or divvy it among other nations of choosing. Either funding choice is distasteful.

The latter provides a powerful incentive for, say, poorer nations to obtain fast cash, as it conceivably turns international crime-fighting efforts into little more than a system for aggressive bounty hunters to prowl for their next big pay-off. Article 30 describes the other option.

"State parties shall endeavor to make adequate and regular voluntary contributions to an account...in a U.N. funding mechanism." The money in this global account is then used to buy "modern equipment," like surveillance technology, and to fund investigative training programs for all treaty parties.

Sounds like a well-funded, highly trained and elitist U.N. police force – and still the list of powers ceded to the global level continues.

Article 20 suggests treaty parties share "special investigative techniques." Article 17 calls for cooperation among nations with "searches and seizures" and "examining objects and sites." Article 31 seeks to establish global regulations for "lawyers, notaries public, tax consultants and accountants" and other professionals with the potential to launder money or hide assets.

With treaty provisions like this, it's questionable how long constitutional protections, ranging from "innocent until proven guilty" to Amendments Four, Five and even Six – which recognize the concepts of "due process of law" and "unreasonable searches and seizures" – will remain intact. With the United Nations in charge, and socialist ideology at the helm, logic says not long.

Overseeing all is the U.N. Secretary-General, who is tasked with running a "Conference of the Parties" meeting that brings together all the treaty nations for discussion and debate on how these global crime-fighting techniques might best be implemented, enhanced, strengthend and fine-tuned.

But the real icing on the cake for Americans concerned with the future of our sovereignty is the dispute adjudication process.

Nations in disagreement with "interpretation or application" of the treaty "may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice," Article 35 states. This is the court we as a nation refused to join because it places our citizens at the mercy of foreign judges who are mostly hostile to America's interests and who care little for our constitutional protections.

Kindly, the treaty also allows for nations to opt-out from this international court jurisdiction. But the questions then becomes, why join this convention at all?

That, in fact, is the overriding problem with this treaty: It never makes clear the reasons America should ratify. International court concern aside, this treaty provides nothing that cannot already be achieved among nations with true intent to prevent and halt serious crime. Nothing currently prevents countries from assisting with the capture of criminals or tracking of crimes across state borders. Nothing, that is, except those barriers that even this treaty cannot overcome – like the inability of hostile nations to trust and cooperate.

Is it really worth endangering our constitutional system of law and justice, and its inherent protections for the individual, for a risky international agreement that depends largely upon the honor of foreign and even hostile nations for its success?

The answer is obviously no – but the fact that the future of this treaty, not yet ratfied, depends largely upon the decision of Foreign Relations Committee Chair Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) is unsettling, to say the least. Lugar has seemingly embraced all-things-U.N. these past few weeks, pushing to ratification a U.N. Protocol that gives global authorities greater power to inspect our nuclear sites and technology, while at the same time battling for senate passage of the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty, a devastating compromise of American sovereignty that allows international oversight and regulation of the world's waters, along with the air and space above.

We can only hope Lugar's binge of internationalist policy has ended because this latest U.N. measure makes the protocol and sea treaties seem like child's play.

Cheryl K. Chumley is a freelancer and contributor to The Daily Cannon, a conservative news site located at www.thedailycannon.com. She may be reached at ckchumley@aol.com.

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