Sri Lanka: Securing the seas with a collaborative approach to enhance maritime crime prosecutions

Colombo, Sri Lanka/19 January 2024: In maritime crime cases, complex crime scenes on vessels make evidence collection difficult. Compromised evidence chains hinder successful prosecutions, emphasizing the need for collective efforts to establish clear procedures. To address this, knowledge sharing and standardized operating procedures (SOPs) are crucial. SOPs ensure collaboration among maritime law enforcement, streamlining approaches for an efficient and credible legal system.

In this context, the Attorney General's Department of Sri Lanka and UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) organized a Brainstorming Session on Collaborative Framework for Evidence Collection at Sea and Chain of Custody Procedures in Sri Lanka. The framework bridges the gap between maritime interdiction operations at sea and subsequent prosecution on land. It is comprehensive, addressing various maritime crime types, including drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, illegal fishing, and pollution crimes in the marine environment.

In the discussions, participating officials highlighted the need for Harmonized Standard Operating Procedures (HSOPs) among maritime law enforcement agencies to increase the admissibility of evidence in court.

A key focus was on addressing the obstacles in inter-agency coordination, a challenge highlighted by several high-profile cases in Sri Lanka. The discussions emphasized the necessity of harmonizing approaches, especially in managing complex crime scenes on vessels, and handling maritime domain awareness as electronic evidence, reflecting the evolving nature of maritime crimes.

The session further explored the roles and responsibilities of various maritime law enforcement agencies, emphasizing the importance of establishing clear mandates to foster effective collaboration. This is particularly crucial for the management of both physical and electronic evidence in intricate crime scenes, ensuring a more cohesive and efficient law enforcement process.

The anticipated outcomes of this session are poised to enhance inter-agency collaboration, enhance evidence-collection procedures at sea, and secure the chain of custody. Consequently, these improvements are expected to contribute substantively to the effectiveness of prosecutions in maritime crime cases. Developing and putting into action HSOPs is expected to make a lasting difference in maritime security in the region, providing an example for other nations dealing with similar challenges.

UNODC GMCP is committed to providing continuous technical assistance to the Sri Lankan Government in strengthening its criminal justice system, making prosecutions for maritime crimes more effective. 

This session was funded by the Government of Japan.

(Supported by the Government of Japan)