|SAARC Convention to help in combating terrorism|
|Wednesday, 27 August 2008 09:20|
The SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters is one of the most significant and tangible outcomes of the 15th SAARC Summit, held in Colombo recently. The Convention, which was signed by the Foreign Ministers of the eight SAARC Member States seeks to provide the legal basis that aims to harmonize different domestic legal systems of countries which would facilitate mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, namely investigations, prosecution and resulting proceedings. Thus the Convention obviates the need to negotiate separate bilateral agreements with individual countries in the region.
Crime committed in one country has transnational and international ramifications. In the modern world, criminals are able to transfer proceeds and instruments of crime from one country to another with ease and flexibility. Crimes are often planned in one country to be committed in another. Evidence relating to crimes are often spread across different countries. The cause of justice demands full investigation into crimes and punishment of offenders following a fair trial.
This requires assistance of the foreign country in whose territory the evidence, documents or witnesses pertaining to the crime are present or available, to enable the law enforcement agencies and the judicial authorities of the country, where the crime was committed, to complete the investigation process.
The SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters would strengthen regional cooperation in the fight against cross-border crimes, in particular the fight against terrorism. In this respect, the Convention calls on all States Parties to provide each other the widest possible measures of cooperation in combating crime by strengthening cooperation in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crimes. The support extended is subject to the national laws of the State Parties to the Convention. The Convention outlines the procedure to be followed in investigations, including search and seizure, obtaining evidence, documents and witnesses in the provision of mutual legal assistance.
The preamble of the Convention recalls the discussions in SAARC on cooperation measures for combating criminal activities including those relating to terrorism. It recognizes the Convention as an effective way of dealing with complex aspects and serious consequences of crimes in its new forms and dimensions. Article 13 of the Convention operates to extend mutual cooperation to seize or confiscate funds collected for the purposes of financing terrorism and to prosecute persons and groups involved in such activities. This is in keeping with the individual States' obligations under the UN Security Council Resolution 1373(2001) to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism, as well as criminalize the wilful provision or collection of funds for such acts.
States may refuse to render assistance in certain cases, including where the execution of the request is contrary to the domestic laws of the requested State, or such execution would impair the security, public order or prejudice the safety of any person.
The Convention will be of paramount importance in establishing a legal basis for regional cooperation within the SAARC in seeking and providing assistance in criminal matters, bolstering the existing regional legal framework, and preventing and suppressing crimes, including terrorism, in the region. It is also expected to play a crucial role in suppressing terrorist financing and in combating terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, to enhance peace, stability and security in the region.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
27 August 2008