It is being ratified to harmonize the existing legislation in the course of implementation
The National Assembly (NA) ratified the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (TIP Protocol) on 1 December 2022.
However, Bhutan will join the UNTOC and this convention will strengthen national measures and international cooperation to prevent and comb the trafficking of persons and other transnational crimes.
The convention was adopted by NA after it was deliberated in National Council (NC). The NA ratified the Convention and Protocol with reservation to Articles on referral to the International Court of Justice and Extradition before forwarding to NC. With not many changes, the NC sent the convention to NA for re-deliberation and adoption after review.
The in-charge of the Convention, the home minister Ugyen Dorji introduced the protocol in the House for adoption. The Houses had ratified the Conventions and Protocol with three reservations. It is being ratified to harmonize the existing legislation in the course of implementation.
The reservations are about making the convention with a legal basis for the cooperation of extradition and referring the case to the international court of justice.
The Houses made reservations for Article 16.4 of the convention on extradition and Article 35.2 of the international court of justice. Reservation is also being made on Article 15.2 of the international court in the protocol too.
The reservations are made to uphold the wisdom of the decision-making process of the United Nation’s Crime Against Corruption (UNCAC) ratification and to take the convention as a legal basis would be open, as a small nation, it is important to note the political and foreign policy considerations and the proceedings of the country is dealing with in taking convention as a legal base for extradition.
It will also help to approach strategically to avoid damages to the bilateral relationship is important and there would be no value addition for not proposing reservation.
The Chairperson of the Human Rights and Foreign Relations Committee, Rinzin Jamtsho, the MP of Khengkhar-Weringla said that the convention is ratified by both Houses after detailed research and understanding of the benefits.
All 42 members present in the House voted in favour of the Convention. The Convention will now be submitted for Royal assent.
According to the TIP report 2020 and 2021, Bhutan falls under the tier 2 watch list of the US States Department.
There is also a possibility of falling under the Tier 3 watch list and it is important to enforce the prioritized nine recommendations of the Trafficking in Person (TIP) report, 2021 issued by the US State Department.
Besides it is one of the recommendations issued by the US State Department to ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women & Children, it is also a subsidiary under the UNTOC.
Ratification of the protocol will help to combat the issue of trafficking through strengthening international cooperation in investigating/prosecuting TIP cases and ensuring protection to victims, increasing the country’s rank in the United States TIP Report.
To join as a member of UNTOC, Bhutan has different laws in place. Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, 2018, Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan, 2011, Financial Services Act, 2011, Penal Code Amendment Act of Bhutan, 2021, Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act, 2015, Child Care and Protection Act of Bhutan, 2011, Civil and Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan, 2001, Evidence Act of Bhutan, 2005, Extradition Act, 1991 and Immigration Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2007 are in place.
The definition of Trafficking in Person is amended in the Penal Code of Bhutan by the Parliament in line with international standards.
The Department of Law and Order has drafted the Mutual Legal Assistance Bill as a legal basis for all security-related conventions and other social-related conventions and the draft bill is submitted to the cabinet for review.
The National Commission for Women and Children has already started reviewing the implementation of the Child Care and Protection Act of Bhutan, 2011 while the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs will request the OAG to review the Extradition Act of 1991.
The UNTOC was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 15 November 2000 and it entered into force on 29 September 2003.
About 190 states have ratified the Convention till date and it has 41 Articles that deal with various organized crimes.
The main purpose of the convention is to promote cooperation among States Parties in preventing and fighting transnational organized crime in a more effective way.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu