International Legal Regime on Wildlife Law Enforcement


International law significantly contributes to wildlife conservation.  There are numerous international and regional convention that directly concern wildlife or have some potential impact on it.  African countries are parties to these conventions.  The major ones include; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the World Heritage Convention the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS); and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

For purposes of wildlife law enforcement, African states are parties to various international agreements including; CITES which regulates trade in wildlife and wildlife products; the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC) which seeks to curb transnational organized crimes; and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) which addresses corruption in law enforcement.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

International Law - CITES LogoThe Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments.    Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.   Countries adhere to CITES provisions voluntarily.  Each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering that licensing system.  There should also be one or more Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of trade on the status of the species.

CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.  Therefore, CITES lists species in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they require. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.  Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.  Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.

Article 8 of CITES provides for the measures to be taken by the parties.  The parties are required to take  measures to enforce provisions of the convention and to prohibit trade in specimens.  The measures to be taken include; the penalization of trade in, or possession of such specimens; and the confiscation or return to the State of export of such Specimens.

CITES also requires that parties designate ports of exit and entry at which specimens must be presented for clearance.  A specimen of a CITES-listed species may be imported into or exported (or re-exported) from a State party to the Convention only if the appropriate document has been obtained and presented for clearance at the port of entry or exit. There is some variation of the requirements from one country to another and it is always necessary to check on the national laws that may be stricter.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC)

International Law - Organised CrimeThe United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC) is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime.  The Convention, which came into force in 2003, represents a major step forward in the fight against transnational organized crime.   According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), several UN reports suggest that criminal organizations have diversified into the illegal markets for wildlife attracted by high profits and low risks.

Serious and organized forms of wildlife crimes such as trafficking in ivory and rhino horn may fall within the scope of UNCTOC.   States that ratify this instrument commit themselves to taking a series of measures against transnational organized crime, including the creation of domestic criminal offences. Article 3 of UNCTOC defines the scope of its application.  It seeks to address various crimes, including; participation in organized criminal groups, laundering of proceeds of crime and corruption.

Article 5 of UNCTOC provides that each State Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to criminalize participation in organized criminal groups including, agreeing with one or more other persons to commit a serious crime, taking an active part in criminal activities of the organized criminal group and organizing, directing, aiding, abetting, facilitating or counselling the commission of serious crime involving an organized criminal group.

Article 6 of UNCTOC provides for criminalization of the laundering of proceeds of crime.  Each State Party shall adopt in its domestic law legislative and other measures that make laundering of proceeds of crime an offence.  Article 8 of UNCTOC provides for criminalization of corruption.  Each State Party is required to adopt legislative and other measures criminalizing corruption.

UNCTOC also provides that states should adopt measures to enable seizure and confiscation of proceeds and instrumentalities of crime.  State Parties should adopt measures that enable the identification, tracing, freezing and seizure of items to be confiscated.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)

International Law - Corruption

The United Nations General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of UNCTOC was desirable.   UNCAC, which came into force in 2005, is the first global legally binding instrument against corruption.  Corruption is often a stumbling block to effective enforcement of laws against wildlife crime.  UNCAC addresses the prevention of corruption.

Article 5 of UNCAC provides for preventive anti-corruption policies and practices.  It states that each State Party shall, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system, develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability.  UNCAC also provides that each State Party shall establish a preventive anti-corruption body to implement anti-corruption policies and to give public education on prevention of corruption.

Article 7 of UNCAC provides for measures to prevent corruption in the public sector.  Further, Chapter 3 of UNCAC provides for criminalization of corruption and law enforcement.  Consequently, State Parties are required to adopt legislation that criminalizes corrupt practices.  Such practices include bribery, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds and property and provide for enforcement of anti-corruption laws.

Author: DidiWamukoya

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