Eyes in the Court transform poaching rates in Kenya
Nairobi, 25 May 2016: WildlifeDirect announces the launch of its second Courtroom Monitoring Report, detailing the outcomes of wildlife crime trials at courts across Kenya during 2014–2015. “By holding the judiciary to account, the programme ‘Eyes in the Courtroom’ provides for the first time, a window into the effectiveness of prosecutions in Kenyan courts, information which has led to major reforms in the charging decisions, filing, and management of wildlife trials”, said Philip Mugor, chairman of WildlifeDirect-Kenya and former Director of Public Prosecutions.
The report analyses data gathered in 50 courtrooms during the first two years of implementation of the Wildlife Conservation & Management Act, 2013.
An earlier survey by WildlifeDirect concluded that low penalties and corruption in courts made Kenya a safe haven leading to escalating poaching and trafficking of ivory across the country. Since the enactment of the new law with severe penalties, and the implementation of major judicial reforms, poaching rates have collapsed dramatically and Kenya’s elephant populations are now on the rise. WildlifeDirect’s ‘Eyes in the Courtroom’ now reports significant improvements in courtroom record keeping and effectiveness of prosecutions and courts across the country are imposing harsh penalties laid down in the new Wildlife Act. Twice as many people are going to jail than before, and for the first time in history, suspected major ivory traffickers are being prosecuted, most notably Feisal Mohamed Ali who is linked to a seizure of 2.1 tons of ivory seized in the Kenyan port town of Mombasa.
However, the team of lawyers also warn that endemic delays and corruption mean that too many criminals are still walking free from the courts. WildlifeDirect has exposed on numerous occasions the fact that to date no high-level ivory trafficker has been convicted and sentenced by Kenyan courts. The undermining of wildlife trials by corruption is the elephant in the room. Numerous cases are failing due to low level corruption which includes the loss of evidence, disappearance of witnesses, loss of files, wrong charges, wrongful conclusions, and illegal penalties. What’s worse is that there are no consequences for those involved in undermining these cases. Virtually none of the officers involved have been disciplined, let alone sacked or prosecuted. What message does it send to fellow officers when a policeman commanding a station gets away with compromising evidence? It’s true that in many cases it’s hard to distinguish corruption from simple inefficiency. But whether the officers involved are complicit in corruption or simply incompetent, it is unacceptable that Kenyan tax payers continue to pay for their salaries.
Efforts must be focussed on investigations, evidence, prosecutions and speedy trial conclusions with deterrent punishments in order for the Kenyan court system to have a decisive deterrent effect on wildlife criminals. “Eyes in the Courtroom is an innovative project with the potential to end the impunity of wildlife criminals not just in Kenya but across Africa. While this latest report gives hope it also highlights just how much remains to be done if these iconic species are to be effectively protected by the law,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder of Save the Elephants.
The report concludes that, while much has improved, Kenya has not achieved the desired situation. The research was funded by Save the Elephants.
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WildlifeDirect is a Kenya and US registered charitable organization founded by Richard Leakey and chaired in Kenya by Senior Advocate and former DPP Philip Murgor. We seek justice for wildlife to ensure Africa’s magnificent wildlife endures forever.
Press contact: Patricia Sewe, Communications Manager, WildlifeDirect:
Mobile: +254 705 515709 | Email: [email protected]
This report will be formally handed over to the KWS Director General next week on Tuesday, May 31st 2016.