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PRESS RELEASE: New law guides boost wildlife and forestry crime court battles

 

NAIROBI, Kenya, 7 November 2017 (Space for Giants, Stop Ivory, The ICCF Group) – A series of guides published today advise African authorities how they can further strengthen efforts to prosecute crimes that damage natural environments and dent national economies.

Countries across the continent face growing challenges applying existing laws to protect resources including productive land, wildlife, and forestry, which can continue to bring people benefits only if they are sustainably managed.

Poachers, illegal loggers, trespassers and others routinely escape justice because of loopholes in old legislation, counter-productive sentencing options, or a lack of case law that might guide fresh convictions.

Today Space for Giants, The ICCF Group and Stop Ivory launched a suite of new advisory documents to guide authorities and policymakers in strengthening legislation and improving the prosecution and adjudication of wildlife and forestry crimes.

The documents draw on the insight of experienced legal practitioners in the wildlife and environmental fields, and include:

Drafting Wildlife Crime Offences in Legislation – Suggested wording and structure for new wildlife crime laws, building on international guidance from CITES, which monitors trade in endangered species

Model Sentencing Guidelines for Wildlife and Forestry Crime – Guidance on proportionate and consistent sentencing for various offences

Guidance on Conducting Court Surveys on the Handling of Wildlife Crime – How to produce baseline research on wildlife crime cases, and then monitor them

Guidance on Identification Evidence – Including conduct of identification parades

Guidance on Prosecution Standards – Key elements of successful prosecutions, and how to achieve them

Guidance on Mutual Legal Assistance – For Botswana and Uganda, approved by national prosecution authorities

Shamini Jayanathan, Space for Giants’ Director of Law and Wildlife Justice, was lead author. The guides draw on her experience advising the Kenyan, Ugandan, and Botswanan governments on drafting and amending their wildlife legislation, prosecution strategies, and judicial capacity-building. Stop Ivory and The ICCF Group paid to produce the guides.

Between them, the three organisations are already working to circulate the documents to legislators, prosecuting authorities, and judiciaries in the 14 countries where they work: Uganda, Gabon, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, the Republic of Congo, the DRC, the Central African Republic, and Angola.

“There’s been a huge amount of progress across Africa in terms of finding and arresting people committing wildlife crimes, but what’s been lacking is strong, consistent prosecutions,” Jayanathan said.

“That is a factor of overwhelmed judiciaries, laws that are no longer fit-for-purpose, and difficulties sharing best practice and new case law across jurisdictions. The guides provide the simple steps to making these laws and their application as robust as they can be.”

Boosting legal capacity and the criminal justice pathway to combating wildlife crimes are key components of National Elephant Action Plans, part of the Elephant Protection Initiative to which many African nations are signatories.

“Reforming wildlife legislation and the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes across Africa is a critical step towards stamping out the illegal wildlife trade and achieving the commitments of the Elephant Protection Initiative,” said John Stephenson, CEO of Stop Ivory, which serves as the secretariat to the EPI.

“These guides provide a focused, step-by-step approach to assist African governments in ensuring that their legal systems can provide deterrent level sentencing to combat the criminal networks which are decimating endangered wildlife through trading in ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products.”

Susan Lylis, Vice President of The ICCF Group, which is based in Washington, DC and works with national leaders to strengthen conservation governance, said: “Incidences of poachers, illegal loggers, and other perpetrators of wildlife and environmental crime escaping justice will be significantly reduced if countries adopt these straightforward guidelines for strengthening legislation, improving prosecution and sentencing, and conducting court surveys.”

Senior figures in wildlife crime law enforcement and prosecutions across Africa welcomed the announcement. Rodah Ogoma, the Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions in Kenya, said the move was “extremely timely”, and added: “Our experience so far would have been easier had these guidelines already been in existence”.

Florence Magoma, head of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Prosecution Unit, said: “The launch of these documents will enable us to establish our new Prosecutions Unit to the highest standards. This has come at an opportune time and we look forward to applying the principles from this guidance.”

In Uganda, Chief Magistrate James Ereemye, the head of the newly-established Uganda Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court in Kampala, singled out the Model Sentencing Guidelines, calling it “a timely tool”. He said: “It will mitigate the sentencing challenge in the court. These guidelines will help develop much needed jurisprudence in wildlife and environmental justice.”

ENDS

Contacts

In Nairobi:

Space for Giants – Mike Pflanz, mike@spaceforgiants.org, +254 735 446226

In London

Stop Ivory – info@stopivory.org, +44 203 865 3126

In Washington, DC:

The ICCF Group – Susan Lylis, susanlylis@iccfoundation.us, +1 202 471 4222

Copies of the documents can be downloaded from www.spaceforgiants.org or by calling the contacts above. Interviews are available with Shamini Jayanathan, the reports’ lead author, and with representatives of each organisation.

About us

Space for Giants is an international conservation organisation headquartered in Kenya dedicated to protecting Africa’s elephants by securing forever the landscapes and habitats they depend on. It works to strengthen national judiciaries to ensure more appropriate and successful prosecutions of wildlife crimes, and to deter those who would poach animals, or encroach on their protected spaces. It works closely with communities and governments to secure popular support for our work. Space for Giants produced and co-funded this document. See www.spaceforgiants.org for more information.

Stop Ivory is an independent non-government organisation that aims to protect elephants and stop the ivory trade by implementing the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI). The EPI is an African-led, results-oriented partnership initiative to stop the ivory trade and implement the continental African Elephant Action Plan. Stop Ivory works with Government and NGO partners to inventory ivory stockpiles, put ivory beyond economic use and develop National Elephant Action Plans. See www.stopivory.org for more details.

The ICCF Group works through parliamentary conservation caucuses and natural resource management leaders to empower policymakers and conservation practitioners with the tools to strengthen conservation governance, implement practical on-the-ground solutions, and expand innovative partnerships. See www.internationalconservation.org for more information.