Wednesday, November 30

Training to investigate, prosecute wildlife criminals

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Participants practicing arrests and seizures.

KOTA KINABALU (Aug 28): Thirty-two representatives of nine state departments, law enforcement agencies and NGOs gathered this week to participate in the Justice for Silent Victims X: Investigation, Prosecution and Courtroom Training.

Jointly organized by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT), Justice for Wildlife Malaysia (JWM) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the participants gained experience on arrests, interviewing, prosecution and court decorum methods and techniques through a mix of presentations and practical exercises.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) funded the course through the project “Boosting Enforcement and Forensic Capability to Deter Wildlife Trafficking in Sabah,” coordinated by the SWD and DGFC, and through OPDAT. Poaching, hunting, illegal killing and trade are real threats to the many endangered species in Sabah and have been at the forefront of wildlife enforcement agenda, more so in recent years.

“We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice and to Justice for Wildlife Malaysia for partnering with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre to deliver this training,” said SWD Deputy Director Mohd Soffian Abu Bakar.

“It is important to establish strong cases in order for the prosecution to successfully convict criminals. We have been strengthening our investigation capacity but we still need to improve on consolidating the results of investigations into convincing prosecutions; in the SWD and other state agencies, our officers are not formal lawyers, our prosecutorial capacity is derived from trainings such as this one. We couldn’t do it either without the support of members of the Malaysian Judiciary, especially Sabah’s Judiciary office,” he concluded.

Sylvia Shweder, USDOJ’s OPDAT Regional Resident Legal Advisor for Counter Wildlife Trafficking in Southeast Asia, said that “the United States supports workshops like this so the global community can work together to dismantle wildlife trafficking criminal organizations that are endangering our world’s treasured animals.”

Working together with the U.S. Department of Justice and the NGO PANTHERA, Justice for Wildlife Malaysia has been organizing the Justice for Silent Victims workshops, mostly in Peninsular Malaysia.

“We are very excited to finally engage with officers from Sabah, in Sabah, for our crime-scene-to-courtroom training. We are happy to see the enthusiasm of the participants and we look forward to working with them in addressing transboundary wildlife crime and fostering a good prosecution network to make sure wildlife criminals can be put behind bars,” commented Dr Nor Arlina Amirah Ahmad Ghani, Director and Co-founder of Justice of Wildlife Malaysia.

Dr Milena Salgado Lynn, who is the coordinator of the INL project for DGFC said, “The INL-funded project has allowed us to support a strong inter-agency network that has been training together in several topics including Crime Scene Investigation, Biosafety, and Online Investigations. This prosecution and courtroom training is another next step on the ladder to reach convictions after prosecution cases are presented in court. We are encouraged to keep up with the work when we see the participants fully engaging in the courses and also supporting each other during real-life cases.”

The program “Boosting Enforcement and Forensic Capacity in Sabah to Deter Wildlife Crimes” will enter its final year in October 2022 and it is expected to continue supporting similar trainings until its conclusion.