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Security Council – Meeting in Arria format

Briefing by Mr. Maurizio Romanelli, National Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Public Prosecution Office, at the meeting of the Security Council in Arria format on “International Cooperation in Criminal Matters within the Peace and Security Pillar: the Role of Central Authorities” —

On May 23rd, in a few days, we will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Mafia massacre in which Giovanni Falcone, his wife and the police officers escorting them lost their lives.

In the early ‘80s, the late Giovanni Falcone taught a great deal to the prosecutors and judges in my Country, and to prosecutors and judges throughout the world.

Some aspects of his teaching are still quite pertinent today, particularly with the emergence of new forms of organised crime and the growing threat of the most recent forms of international terrorism.

Three of his lessons can be summarized as follows:

• Even the most deeply-rooted, dangerous and organized forms of crime can be countered within legal systems through the development of effective law enforcement tools;
• Organized crime does not have territorial limits, so international cooperation is the only truly effective way to fight it;
• Serious efforts to combat organized crime require a prompt sharing of the relevant information, at both the national and international levels.

It is thanks to the initiative of Giovanni Falcone that Italy created a specialized office of the public prosecutor, the National Anti-mafia Directorate, which I have the honour to represent today.


The Directorate was created in late 1991 for the purpose of coordinating and promoting investigations against organized crime The Directorate created a protected database gathering all the information relating to organized crime investigations and trials in Italy as well as information gained through international cooperation.

The Italian judiciary developed this approach in its efforts to counter Italian extreme right- and left-wing domestic terrorism in the 1970s and 80’s, always respecting the fundamental principles of the Italian constitution.

In early 2015, after the proclamation of the so-called Islamic state and the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the Direcorate’s coordination and promotion duties were extended to counterterrorism and its name was changed to reflect this.

So in Italy today we have a central judicial office whose job is to coordinate and promote at the national level investigations into both organized crime and terrorism. Allow me to mention that in Italy the prosecutors and judges belong to the same judicial order, are independent from the Government, and are administered by the High Council of the Magistracy.

Italian mafia organizations (such as the Mafia, ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra) operate in an international dimension. They have the capacity to do business with the main criminal organizations of other countries. They have the capacity to set up operations in other countries and especially to invest abroad large sums of their illegal profits, thus infiltrating the economic and social reality of other Countries.

Terrorist organizations – in particular, but not only, the so-called Islamic state – tend to operate in several Countries, indiscriminately attacking civilian targets throughout the world.

To counter these criminal phenomena there is a need to maximize international judicial cooperation.

Since the Palermo Convention of December 2000, the instruments of international and domestic law have enabled spontaneous judicial cooperation already during the preliminary investigation thereby developing an effective coordinated response.

In implementing the Convention, every Country should adopt the necessary investigative tools (such as witness protection, the legal use of wiretapping; undercover operations; and investigations, seizure and confiscation of illegal assets).

This approach is fundamental to countering the new forms of international terrorism, as the UN resolutions have underlined (particularly resolutions 2170 and 2178 of 2014, and resolution 2322 of 2016): foreign terrorist fighters; F.T.F. returnees; organized networks or cells; the ability to take action using the internet and other modern means of communication, are all criminal phenomena that each Country can counter only by updating its domestic legislation, and strengthening liaisons with the other Countries.

International cooperation must be spontaneous and timely, to allow each Country to immediately have the information needed to counter and prevent terroristic actions.

This model of cooperation demands a cultural shift. Here, too, the central authorities have a major contribution to make. They could help to develop knowledge and mutual trust between the judicial authorities and the judicial police of different Countries. They could help to overcome prejudices and address the differences between national legal systems and legislations. They could help to maintain the seal of confidentiality and to recognize shared priorities in the action.

Experience has taught me important lessons. Just to name two: a) how much collaboration with the central authorities of other Countries has increased our understanding of the problems and the solutions, and also improved coordination at the national level; b) how important it is for the main role in international cooperation to be played by the judicial authorities of the various Countries, because only an action that takes place in a framework of legality can be truly effective, especially over the long term, and capable of preventing and containing the growth of radicalization and proselytising.

The goal we should all share is for every Country to establish a national authority – with adequate powers and resources – thereby fostering a network of stable relations. We need to prevent the structural weaknesses of some Countries from weakening the overall system of international cooperation.

Another goal, at the European level, is the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor, not limited to the protection of the EU’s financial interests but rather extended to serious forms of transnational crimes, would be a positive development.

This is the experience I can share as well as our commitment to the future.