Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Ugyen Dorji

NA passes Transnational Crime and Trafficking Protocol

The National Assembly (NA)has passed the rectification of United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (TIP Protocol) with 45 votes on friday.

This will be tabled in National Council (NC) during the next session. UNTOC was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 15 November 2000. It is the main international instrument dealing with the fight against transnational organized crime.

The convention entered into force on 29 September 2003 and till date, 190 States have ratified UNTOC.

The main purpose of UNTOC is to promote cooperation among states parties in preventing and fighting transnational organized crime in a more effective way. One key feature of the convention is its emphasis on international cooperation which is an essential element in combating organized crime, which often transcends borders.

Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA), Ugyen Dorji, said in-order to rectify TIP Protocol, the UNTOC also needed to be rectified asTIP is the subsidiary of UNTOC,which is why the Parliament put them up together for a discussion.

UNTOC combats the transnational organized crime, as it increases with globalization, he said,

“There is a TIP review mechanism under the US State Department, and they had nine recommendations for Bhutan,of which one recommendation was to rectify the convention,” Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said.

In addition, he said that Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) is member to the Asia-Pacific Group on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism since 2016 and they were basically suggesting that they rectify the TIP protocol and the convention.

With development, the possibility of increase in number of cases TIP exists, and thereby, it is imperative that Bhutan become party to such a convention and protocol, he added.

However, he said, “When we do that, we are putting reservations to the three articles, Article 16.5 (a) and Article 35.3 of UNTOC and article 15.3 of the TIP Protocol.”

Article 16.5 (a) states that at the time of deposit of their instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval of or accession to this Convention, inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations whether they will take this Convention as the legal basis for cooperation on extradition with other States Parties to this Convention.   

However, as the per the National Interest Analysis (NIA) on UNTOC, it is agreed that it is not an appropriate option for Bhutan to take Convention as legal basis for cooperation on extradition, which is as per, the decision taken during the ratification of UNCAC following consultation among the relevant agencies including MFA.

Similarly, the article 35.3 of the UNTOC and article 15 of the TIP Protocol states that the State Parties are required to declare whether or not it remains bound by paragraph 2 of this article which states that any dispute between two or more State Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention shall be referred to the International Court of Justice in the event it cannot be settled through negotiation followed by arbitration.

“However, the government has proposed a reservation,whereby,it is agreed that it is not an appropriate option for Bhutan to remain bound by paragraph 2, which is as per the decision taken during the ratification of UNCAC, following consultation among the relevant agencies including MFA,” states the NIA.

NIA further stated that besides the possible political and bilateral complications it may involve, the ACC also took note of high cost and resource implication on the Royal Government of Bhutan as dispute settlement proceedings includes tiers of proceedings, such as negotiation, arbitration and adjudication by International Court of Justice during the ratification of UNCAC.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, said that it is equally important because around 190 countries have already rectified the instrument, and thereby, Bhutan also needs to become part of the global community.

However, he said, “I feel that transnational organized crime is not a major issue in our country, which is why, this should not necessarily be a high priority. If we accept UNTOC and TIP, there will be implications on our laws, to around 71 laws.”

They have no clear idea as to what would be the implications of exceeding to this rectification on the existing laws, he added.

Lyonpo said, “To avoid all the implications against our existing laws, we have drafted a Mutual Legal Assistance Act,and we are ready to table it in the upcoming Parliament session. We also might need to revise the Extradition Act 1991 to remit up to the speed.”

He further said that there might also be need of changing the definition of the Trafficking in Person in the Child Care Protection Act.   

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