Strengthening the arm of the law through judicial training
Bagamoyo, Tanzania, 25th May 2016—Magistrates and prosecutors, including law enforcement officers and wildlife management officers adjudicating over wildlife crimes from across Tanzania met this week as part of a programme to strengthen the judicial, prosecutorial and investigative sectors in the fight against wildlife crime.
The meeting was held under the banner of Strengthening Legal Mechanisms to Combat Wildlife Crime and convened by the Training Department of Tanzania’s Judiciary, TRAFFIC, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the Environmental Law Centre of IUCN, and the Wildlife Division of Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The training was funded by the German Government. It marked the beginning of a comprehensive programme to strengthen Tanzania’s judiciary.
Currently there is little coverage of wildlife-related crimes and associated legislation in national law schools. The overwhelming majority of the Tanzanian judiciary who responded to a TRAFFIC questionnaire said they had not received any relevant training.
“There is a need to build awareness and strengthen Tanzania’s capacity to prosecute wildlife crimes within the criminal justice system,” said Lydia Slobodian, with IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre.
“Enhanced capacity in the judiciary and law enforcement sectors will ensure effective investigations, prosecutions, and sentences that are deterrent enough to discourage criminals from committing wildlife crimes,” said Dr. Y.J.B. Yongolo from Kisithu Resident Magistrate’s Court, Dar es Salaam.
Poaching and associated crime continue to take a major toll on the wildlife in many parts of Africa, affecting not only wildlife, but also damaging communities, local economies and the rule of law.
In several countries, weaknesses and loopholes in wildlife laws and law enforcement provide inadequate deterrents, while prosecuting wildlife crime is not a priority for many of the decision makers controlling implementation of environmental laws through the police, Customs and judicial authorities. The result is a low conviction rate and weak penalties for wildlife crime. These problems are compounded by cross-border challenges such as the lack of harmonization of wildlife laws.
“Better protection on the ground and improved enforcement actions against the traffickers is seriously undermined unless appropriate penalties and deterrents are issued through the judicial system,” said Julie Thomson, Head of TRAFFIC’s office in East Africa. “This makes a strong judiciary an essential element of the concerted international response to the ongoing poaching crisis.”
“Poaching and illegal wildlife trade threaten tourism and development options in Tanzania. Germany remains a strong partner in supporting Tanzania’s efforts in the combat against illegal wildlife trade,” said Lena Thiede, Councellor at the German Embassy in Dar es Salaam.
“Wildlife crimes have morphed from being purely wildlife related and now involve customs offences, tax offences, organized crimes and offences involving firearms among others. This shift in the nature of wildlife crimes now requires inter-agency collaboration for effective enforcement,” said Didi Wamukoya, the Wildlife Law Enforcement Manager at AWF.
The project combines the expertise and resources of five German ministries, international organizations and NGOs to combat poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife products (ivory and rhino-horn) in Africa and Asia.
“The war against poaching and illegal trafficking in wildlife is intense. Therefore, collaborative efforts among stakeholders are needed now more than ever to win this battle against transnational organized crime”, said Karamaga Canisius (Principal Wildlife Officer, Wildlife Division, Tanzania)
This week’s training was funded under the German “Polifund” project against illegal wildlife trade, implemented by GIZ, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).