Over the last ten years, the United Nations Security Council has begun considering organized criminal activity in some situations, including drug trafficking, diamond, mineral and wildlife trafficking, and piracy. This Working Paper reviews this practice, finding that the Security Council has begun to draw on domestic criminal justice discourse and techniques — including criminal investigation, trial, and punitive sanctions. However, the Council has encountered three obstacles in applying these at the international level: 1) sovereignty; 2) limited access to effective law enforcement and judicial capacity; and 3) due process.
Experimenting with ways to address these obstacles, the Security Council has developed four modes of international law enforcement: 1) decentralized enforcement (through states’ own criminal justice systems); 2) collective enforcement (for example, through anti-piracy naval operations off Somalia); 3) direct enforcement (through executive policing and military action by the UN against criminal groups,
for example, in Kosovo and Haiti); and, increasingly, 4) a regulatory approach (for example, through adoption of ‘Due Diligence’ guidelines requiring companies to remove illicit minerals from their supply chain).
This Working Paper reviews how these different experiments have played out, and draws attention to the dangers of the Council raising public expectations that it will act like a judge, meting out justice, rather than as a political forum.