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Southeast Asia prosecutors trained for the first time on environmental crime

Bangkok (Thailand), 15 July 2016
- More than 120 prosecutors from Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam received specialized training on 'Prosecution of Wildlife Crime Cases' over June and July. The training was carried out under UNODC's Programme for Combatting Wildlife and Forest Crime to strengthen criminal justice systems to respond to wildlife and forest crimes.

Successful law enforcement begins with the detection and seizure of wildlife contraband and the arrest of couriers; yet it is important that such cases are further investigated, then brought to court and prosecuted adequately according to the criminal provisions of the domestic legal frameworks. Without effective prosecutions and appropriate sentences, seizures alone cannot disrupt the business of organized criminal networks.

Participating groups prepare legal approaches to problem scenarios during training

The four courses focused on best practices for gathering and handling evidence for wildlife crime cases, case management, communication channels to request information and mutual legal assistance, and preparing and presenting cases in court. An additional training course was held in the Philippines on 'Anti-Money Laundering Investigations to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crimes', which focused on financial investigation techniques to help prosecutors target the profits of wildlife crime and identify the individuals who control the wildlife and timber trafficking operations.

Groups prepare a display chart for their prosecution plan for the notional case during the workshop

"These courses complement our efforts to advance the capacity of law enforcement authorities to conduct proper investigations and to refer solid cases to prosecutors" said Giovanni Broussard, Regional Coordinator of the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime. "We were confronted with the challenge of adapting each course to the different legal framework and different capacity in each country. Yet, we received very positive feedback from the trainees and we intend to replicate these courses in other countries in Southeast Asia in 2017".

Many countries lack the legal provisions or the practice to treat environmental offences as serious crimes. Administrative sanctions are often the only punishment for violations of the regulations related to the trade of protected wildlife and/or timber. Therefore, it is crucial that prosecutors have a thorough understanding of the magnitude of the crimes committed, so that they can establish a basis for the court's imposition of appropriate penalties.

However, the role of public prosecutors is often hindered by an inadequate understanding of environmental laws and wildlife and forest crime issues, and a lack of technical proficiency to gather the necessary evidence to prosecute these types of crimes, to build strong cases, and present them successfully in court.

A mock trial at the Vietnam training course provided participants with the opportunity for mentorship and sharing best practices

"For environmental laws to be an effective deterrent against committing wildlife crimes, they must have strong penalties which must be applied in practice," said Mr. Mark Romley, a Federal Prosecutor with the Environmental Crimes Section of the United States Department of Justice, and one of the course trainers. "Sensitizing prosecutors to environmental and wildlife issues, and improving their skills to prepare and present these types of cases in court, are important aspects in working towards achieving this."

Brainstorming sessions were held during the workshop to develop legal strategies for prosecuting notional cases of wildlife crime

Participants analyze information as part of a practical exercise at the prosecutor training course in the Philippines

Click here to read more on UNODC's Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime.