National Workshop in Gabon Prepares Judges for Environmental Crime Cases

January 02, 2018
National Workshop in Gabon Prepares Judges for Environmental Crime Cases

In Gabon, The ICCF Group is working to improve the judiciary’s understanding of issues surrounding the illegal wildlife trade and give them the necessary tools to effectively handle cases involving wildlife and environmental crimes. On March 23, 2018, The ICCF Group organized a national workshop for magistrates from nine Gabonese provinces to strengthen their capacity to handle these cases.

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In Gabon, The ICCF Group is working to improve the judiciary’s understanding of issues surrounding the illegal wildlife trade and give them the necessary tools to effectively handle cases involving wildlife and environmental crimes. On March 23, 2018, The ICCF Group, in partnership with the leadership of the Gabonese Parliamentary Conservation Caucus, organized a national workshop for magistrates from nine Gabonese provinces to strengthen their capacity to handle these cases.

Presentations given by Hon. Angelique Ngoma, President of the Gabonese Parliamentary Conservation Caucus, and Professor Lee White, Director of the National Parks Agency, offered perspectives on Gabon’s Wildlife Act from a legislative and administrative implementing standpoint. The Minister of Justice; the Minister of Fishing, Sea, and Maritime Security; and the Minister of Forests and the Environment each gave departmental perspectives on wildlife laws and discussed issues related to their respective ministries.

Annually in Gabon, Professor White told participants, ivory trafficking is a $15 million business. Nearly 25,000 elephants, he said, have been killed there in the past 15 years, yet poachers face weak punishments and often return to commit the same crimes again and again.

Group break-out sessions enabled participating magistrates to discuss practical case studies related to wildlife, logging, and fishing and gain practical experience in effectively handling criminal cases revolving around these issues.

In February 2017, The ICCF Group facilitated the launch of the Gabonese Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (GPCC) as a means to build political will and effectuate legislative reforms. The following day, The ICCF Group held a regional workshop for top-level prosecutors and judges in central Africa to raise awareness and identify gaps in enforcement of existing laws. From this workshop, The ICCF Group partnered with legal experts to develop country-specific roadmaps for addressing gaps in enforcement. The ICCF Group and Space for Giants have also partnered to publish a series of best-practice guides for wildlife crime enforcement, available here.

The March 23 workshop is a continuation of these efforts, working to train those judges in Gabon most often faced with wildlife crime cases. Local magistrate courts in Gabon are courts of first instance when it comes to criminal prosecutions, which means they play a significant role in administering justice for wildlife crimes. Practical experience gained during this workshop means magistrates can effectively apply the necessary legal tools, and increased awareness amongst these officials about the issues surrounding environmental crime means these frontline adjudicators can better appreciate the socioeconomic and environmental impact of their decisions in these cases.

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