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12.05.2004 General News

Trans-National crime a threat to West African security

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Accra, May 12, GNA - Security Experts and Crime Intelligence Researchers on Wednesday said trans-national criminal groups were threatening the security of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

The Experts noted: "The concept of globalisation and building of regional blocks, advancement and easy assess to information technology, worsened by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons have heightened the operations of criminals and the crime wave within the Sub-Region."

The Experts said trans-national crimes had assumed global and multi-jurisdictional dimensions and challenged front line security operatives - Immigration, Customs, Military and Police Officers and Governments to collaborate, share information and expertise on criminals for effective combating.

The Experts were contributing to discussions at seminar on: "The Challenges of Trans-national Organised Crime to National Security In Ghana," organized by the African Security Dialogue and Research (ASDR) for personnel of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) in Accra.

The two-day seminar aimed at equipping the Immigration Officers with information on trans-national organized crime, national security and ECOWAS' preparedness to respond to security challenges, drug trafficking, small arms proliferation and Internet crime in Ghana.

Speaking on "Internet Crime," Mr Emmanuel Sowatey, ASDR Research Fellow, said cyber criminals had adopted schemes that included online economic crimes, fraud, software piracy and the fencing of stolen goods. Mr Sowatey pointed out that the proliferation of computers and the increased access to the Internet made users more vulnerable to criminal activities like bogus on-line investment, copyright violations and identity theft.

He said research had also indicated that terrorist networks were also using the Internet to infiltrate and sabotage security and national infrastructures, adding, "security experts, therefore, see increased focus on cyber crimes as an essential element in the global campaign against terrorism."

Mr Sowatey urged Immigration Officers to up-grade their technological base with modern equipment for rapid response as well as detection of crime at the point of entry.

Prosper Nii Nortey Addo, also an ASDR Research Fellow, who spoke on "Small Arms Proliferation" said West African Leaders needed to be reminded of October 31st 1998, when out of their own volition 15 Heads of States and Governments adopted and signed the ECOWAS Moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms and light weapons in the Sub-Region.

The Moratorium was to serve as a mechanism for diminishing and eventual elimination of the scourge of violent and destructive civil wars that had rained havoc on several countries within the Sub-Region. Mr Addo said six years later the use of small arms and light weapons in the Sub-Region was still a major threat to peace, security and stability. Their consequences continued to undermine all conscientious efforts aimed at development, protection and upholding of human rights and democracy.

He said the use of small arms and light weapons had visited untold hardships on the people and had invariably impacted negatively on their economic and social well-being.

In the light of the above, he said, West African Leaders needed to be reminded of the tenets of the document they appended their signatures to, six years ago against the background of their contractual obligation to their people.

The ECOWAS Moratorium, in its current form, is only a voluntary mechanism, which, although politically and morally binding, however, is devoid of legal compulsion.

In other words there are no legally enforceable sanctions against any country, which breaches any or all parts of the Moratorium. Besides, it is subject to renewal every three years in order to remain in force. In Ghana, Mr Addo said small arms and illicit weapons were increasingly affecting the lives of Ghanaians in ways hitherto unimaginable.

He said while governmental efforts were being undertaken; institutional incapacity and lack of human resources to effectively deal with the problem of small arms had made it imperative that civil society organisations complemented official efforts at getting a better grasp of the multi-layered and diverse problems posed by small arms and illicit weapons by creating the necessary public awareness. Mr Addo, therefore, appealed to Ghana Immigration Service and other para-military agencies to collaborate with non-governmental organisations and other Civil Society Groups to solicit the attention of the Government to step up efforts towards the control of illicit small arms and light weapons in the country.

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