Judiciary gets new tools to fight poaching, cross-border crimes
Friday February 24 2023
Rwanda has adopted a special toolkit to help judicial authorities to handle wildlife and other after environmental crimes.
The instrument dubbed, Rwanda Rapid Reference Guide on Wildlife and Environmental Crimes and Related Administrative Faults, was developed by Space for giants — a wildlife lobby.
The technical toolkit will address challenges like lack of evidence in prosecuting wildlife crimes, especially those committed in border areas.
According to data from Rwanda prosecution, about 22 percent of the wildlife crimes, which the National Public Prosecution Authority handled between 2021 and 2022, were not lodged before the courts due to lack of evidence, while others have been written.
Although Rwanda has faced relatively fewer cases of wildlife crimes, following the 2014 crackdown on poaching in Tanzania, wildlife criminals started using Rwanda as a transit route.
This led to a spike in cross-border wildlife offences in the country over the past five years.
“The toolkit guide will help us improve the quality of investigations especially in drafting charge sheets for wildlife and environmental crimes,” said Jean Pierre
Habarurema, the focal point for the prosecution of wildlife and environmental crimes at Rwanda Prosecution. He said the fact that the toolkit brings together all the wildlife related legal instruments will help ease identification of all prohibited acts as provided for in the newly promulgated biodiversity law.
“It will also guide us while training investigators and improve the quality of investigations in wildlife and environmental crimes,”
The new biodiversity law that came into force in 2021 expanded the spectrum of wildlife and environmental crimes far beyond the revised 2018 environmental law.
The new law introduced many new crimes for example anyone found in possession of a product from a protected animal species commits a crime, and prosecution doesn’t shoulder the burden of providing evidence that the person killed the animal.
If found in possession of weapons like bows and arrows, spears or traps in a protected area also amounts to a crime.