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Supporting Viet Nam's judges to improve the adjudication of wildlife crime cases

Da Nang (Viet Nam), 12 July 2018 - Judges and officials from the Supreme People's Court (SPC) in the central provinces of Viet Nam came together over two days in Da Nang City to discuss the new provisions for wildlife crimes under Viet Nam's revised Penal Code, and issues relating to the adjudication of wildlife crime cases in court.

"The stronger provisions and penalties in the revised Penal Code show the commitment of Viet Nam to more effectively implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species," said Dr. Nguyen Hoa Binh, Chief Justice of the Supreme People's Court. "The new law will also help to resolve many challenges judges have previously faced in adjudicating wildlife crime cases, and will help to ensure consistency in its application throughout all of Viet Nam's territory."

The workshop on "Adjudication of Cases Relating to Crimes Against Protected Wildlife Under the 2015 Penal Code, as Amended in 2017" was held on 11-12 July with the participation of 77 judges, court officials, and members of the SPC Judicial Council. It was organized by SPC in cooperation with UNODC's Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, and the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Governance for Inclusive Growth (GIG) Program.

It was the first in a series of three workshops on this topic, which aim to raise awareness among judges of the seriousness of transnational wildlife crimes, as well as to disseminate the criminal provisions - including tougher penalties - under the revised Penal Code.

"Judges play a vital role in the criminal justice response to wildlife crime," said Mr. Chris Batt, Officer-in-Charge of UNODC in Viet Nam. "It is not only crucial that judges have a thorough understanding of the law and can interpret the provisions effectively; but also, that they have the capacity to recognize transnational and organized crime elements where relevant, and apply appropriate penalties to act as a deterrent for those committing these crimes."

Under the new Penal Code provisions, the maximum penalties for wildlife crime offences in Viet Nam have increased significantly up to 15 years imprisonment or 2 billion VND fine for individuals (equivalent to approximately US$86,500); and for corporations up to 15 billion VND fine (equivalent to approximately US$651,000) or the suspension of operations for up to three years. The new provisions are among the strongest in the Southeast Asia region, and if they are enforced and implemented well, Viet Nam could become a regional leader in the fight against wildlife trafficking.

A large part of UNODC's focus in Viet Nam during 2018 has been placed on supporting the government to promote the new wildlife crime provisions to law enforcement authorities across the country.

From January to April 2018, UNODC partnered with the CITES Management Authority of Viet Nam and Humane Society International to conduct a series of three workshops for environmental police, customs officers, market control and forestry officials on good practices and practical considerations for law enforcement in applying the new provisions.

During May and June 2018, UNODC also partnered with the Department of Legal Affairs under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to co-host an additional three workshops, which included the development of a handbook which will help guide law enforcement authorities in the implementation of the new provisions.

"The new provisions have closed some key legal loopholes and gaps that have previously caused many challenges for Vietnamese law enforcement officers in handling transnational wildlife crime cases", said Mr. Giovanni Broussard, Regional Coordinator of UNODC's Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime. "Although the supporting guidance for the new provisions is still under development, we see the reforms as an important opportunity for Viet Nam to make big improvements in its investigations, prosecutions and convictions of wildlife trafficking offences."

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on wildlife and forest crime in the region.