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To prosecute or not to prosecute? A question for Tanzanian prosecutors working on wildlife crime  

Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) 11 – 13 July - The decision to charge is the foundation of any prosecution service. The exercise of discretion in making a decision to charge must be undertaken with utmost care, given its intrusive nature and potential adverse effects upon the liberty and property of an accused person.   

With the financial support of the U.S State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and in partnership with the National Prosecution Service of the United Republic of Tanzania, UNODC supported the establishment of a task force to develop guidelines on the “Decision to Charge and Other Related Matters”. 

The Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. Sylvester Anthony Mwakitalu, underlined that “in developing these guidelines, the Task Force adopted international best practices reflecting the diverse approaches that have been adopted worldwide by prosecutorial institutions”. It is his hope that “these guidelines will enhance transparency and accountability as well as positively impact the quality of prosecutions undertaken within the United Republic of Tanzania.”

In recent years, the Court of Appeals of Tanzania overturned convictions of suspected wildlife crime offenders by lower courts due to issues related to chain of custody and over-reliance on confessions. According to Shamini Jayanathan, OBE, Barrister at Law, “The lack of robust evidence directly impedes prosecutors from making an informed decision whether to charge or not an individual. It decreases realistic prospects of conviction against suspected individuals”. 

The Decision to Charge Guidelines address these challenges by providing prosecutors with guidance on how to approach the decision to charge based on evidential requirements as well as public interest factors. Further, it introduces the ‘Threshold Test’, designed to limit the use of criminal charges where investigations are not complete but where serious offences have been committed and where the suspect presents a substantial bail risk. The Guidelines also cover other related matters, such as plea bargaining, withdrawal of charges, bail, the disclosure of evidence and the possibility of appeals, review, and revision of prosecutorial decisions. 

Subsequently, the National Prosecutions Service of Tanzania endorsed this document as legally binding, and moving forward, prosecutors will be held accountable for implementation of the standards established by the guidelines. The wide dissemination of the Decision to Charge Guidelines will help promote effective administration of criminal justice in the prosecution of criminal offenses, such as wildlife and forest crime. 

For more information, please contact:

Giovanni Broussard (

Africa Coordinator, Environment Team

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Click here to visit the UNODC Environment Programme website.