ECOWAS experts adopt anti-corruption protocols, ponder terrorism

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- ECOWAS experts who began a meeting in Accra, Ghana Thursday are expected to adopt draft protocols on corruption and the establishment of a Criminal Intelligence Bureau.
An ECOWAS release said that during the two-day meeting, delegates would examine the 19-page draft protocol on " The Fight Against Corruption," which was prepared by the Executive Secretariat following the recommendation of the May 2001 conference of Attorneys-General and Ministers of Justice also held in Accra.
In the final document of the conference, known as "The Accra Declaration on Collaborating against Corruption," the Ministers pledged, among other things, to harmonise the laws of their countries into a Community Protocol against corruption, whose provisions cover extradition, financial disclosure, customs and immigration, information management and judicial processes.
The document also recommended that the Executive Secretariat elaborate a comprehensive Community protocol on corruption that will provide a sub-regional legal framework for combating corruption.
Delegates from the Ministries of Justice, Internal Security and Social Affairs of Member States, will also review the 10-page draft protocol on the establishment of an ECOWAS Criminal Intelligence Bureau.
The Bureau, which was proposed by Ghana, will among others things, collate intelligence from Member States on criminal activities in the sub-region, monitor the movement of criminals and generally facilitate collaboration in the control of cross- border crime.
The meeting will also reflect on terrorism, which has recently come into the fore in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States.
At the opening of the meeting, ECOWAS Director of Legal Affairs, Roger Laloupo said that while corruption is pervasive, people trying to protect relationships have contributed to frustrating the fight against it.
Laloupo, who represented the Executive Secretary, Lansana Kouyate said the increase in cross-border crime was one of the unintended consequences of the ECOWAS protocol on free movement.
To stem abuse of the protocol by criminals, he said instruments had been put in place to apprehend and punish offenders and make it impossible for criminal groups to operate freely.
He also stressed the need for collaboration in the fight against terrorism, adding that it was only through co-operation that "we would be able to terrorise terrorists.
" Ghana's Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Nana Addo Akufo-Addo said there was need to prove to the world that African countries "are determined to go beyond rhetoric and act positively against corruption.
" He said the sub-regional convention should facilitate "our coalition against corruption within the sub-region" and affirm a determination to the reduction and eventual elimination of corruption.
In the speech read by his Deputy, Gloria Akuffo, the Attorney-General noted that endemic corruption could not be reversed and controlled by moral crusades and selective punishment but through a self-assessment that will help countries develop strategies and benchmarks for combating the scourge.
He said the sub-regional strategy should be inclusive and cover the private and public sectors.
A French magistrate, Michael Gauthier, who represented the Centre for International Crime Prevention told the experts to draw inspiration from existing instruments in Europe and the Americas for combating corruption.
He said the sub-region's protocol should avoid repeating the provisions already in these instruments but ensure that the sub- regional protocol reflected the needs and peculiarities of the area.
The meeting is being jointly organised by ECOWAS, the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, the Centre for International Crime Prevention and the government of Japan.

25 october 2001 17:06:00

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