West African Ministers of Justice sign WACAP Charter

West African Ministers of Justice sign WACAP Charter to institutionalize judicial cooperation

"Transnational organized crime and illicit drug trafficking continue, at present day, to threaten the security, the rule of law, the democracy and the development of many regions of the world," asserted the Regional Representative of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC for West and Central Africa, Pierre Lapaque, during a high-level meeting held in Accra, Ghana, on 23 March 2015.

The event sought to further consolidate and institutionalise the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors against Organized Crime (WACAP), the event regrouped the Ministers of Justice of Ghana, Mali and Cape Verde, representatives from the Ministries of Justice of WACAP member states, the representative of the ECOWAS Commission, various ambassadors as well as WACAP focal points. 

The meeting resulted in a Ministerial Declaration on Strengthening International Cooperation against Organised Crime in West Africa and the signature of the network's charter. Aiming to align WACAP Member States' legislations with the provisions of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and the various international conventions against terrorism and trafficking of psychotropic substances, this declaration represents an important milestone in the workings of this expanding network.

The ratification of the WACAP Charter was timely as the need for cohesive and effective cooperation in combating organized crime was rife, as progressively demonstrated by events in Mali and Nigeria, among many other states.

In reiterating the point Pierre Lapaque noted, "Criminal networks are trying to create their own area of operations using corruption as a weapon of persuasion, and threat as a weapon of deterrence and destabilization of the institutions. No country can effectively combat organized crime by itself due to the latter's complexity and its international ramifications." This statement was echoed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Ghana, Marietta Brew Appiah Opong, who appealed to WACAP members to endeavour to exchange information on suspected criminals in order to effectively combat crime.

The purpose of WACAP is to strengthen the capacity of central authorities and prosecutors to combat all forms of organized crime and impunity. The Network fosters cooperation between West African central authorities through regular meetings, training programmes and online platforms. It enables central authorities and relevant practitioners to exchange information about their respective legal systems and procedures, and share good practices, allowing them to better prepare and respond to requests for mutual legal assistance and extradition. WACAP is linked to the Bamako Declaration on Impunity, Justice, and Human Rights in West Africa, which calls, inter alia, for the strengthening of mutual legal assistance between countries in West Africa.

WACAP is supported by funds from the governments of France, Norway and the United States of America.