ASEAN Launches First Ever Legal Toolkit to Combat Wildlife Crime

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Press Release by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry

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New Legal Toolkit Provides Hope for More Uniformed Laws for ASEAN

ASEAN Member States launched a new first-of-its-kind ‘ASEAN Handbook on Legal Cooperation to Combat Wildlife Crime’ in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) and Freeland. The handbook promises to provide an essential way forward in ASEAN wildlife crime legislation, against a backdrop of varying national laws and penalties across the region.

The handbook will provide criminal justice and law enforcement officials from the ASEAN region with a strategic tool that outlines key wildlife laws in all 10 ASEAN Member States and an array of wildlife national laws for the prosecution of wildlife criminals.

In a statement, Minister of Environment and Forestry Dr. Ir. Siti Nurbaya Bakar noted that: “The handbook, already by its sheer weight, eloquently demonstrates how far we have come,” adding that,  “Indonesia is proud to co-organize this event with our partners, ASEAN-WEN (Wildlife Enforcement Network), USAID-funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking Program (ARREST) implemented by Bangkok-based Freeland, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), along with numerous partners from both the public and private sectors.” Top-level officials from MOEF at the launch and workshop proper joined Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar in welcoming representatives from ASEAN Member States, ASEAN-WEN, the US Government, AIPA (ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly) and the ASEANAPOL (ASEAN Chiefs of Police).  She further stressed, “This handbook is essential to better understand wildlife protection legislations, and to identify opportunities for prosecutions, understand jurisdictional overlaps and legal innovations and remedies.”

“What is gratifying,” says Freeland’s Executive Director Steve Galster, “is that components of this were already being utilized by ASEAN following the decision in October 2015 to include ‘Wildlife and Timber Trafficking’ as a priority agenda on the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime. The Law provides us with a crucial tool to help combat wildlife trafficking; this toolkit will allow us to make the most of that tool. In future, we look forward to better and more uniformed legislation for ASEAN.”

Deputy Representative Aron Traver of the United States Mission to ASEAN says: “The handbook will be an invaluable tool for the day-to-day work of ASEAN-WEN and its national task forces. A mature ASEAN needs mature legal literature and this handbook provides an important marker in that respect. I am convinced that it will be an indispensible tool for prosecutors, policy makers, national courts and practitioners, and thus ensure the furtherance of ASEAN’s commitments.”

The handbook was inspired by an ASEAN Legal Task Force, comprising ASEAN-WEN officials, prosecutors, ASEAN experts, the UN and NGOs. It includes international cooperation, specifically mutual legal assistance, anti-money laundering, and anti-corruption statutes and extradition, in addition to guidance for officials on how these national and regional tools might be relevant to the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime cases and in the processing or consideration of requests for assistance across ASEAN borders.

The ASEAN Handbook on Legal Cooperation to Combat Wildlife Crime was developed with the support of the USAID, Freeland, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), and the Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL), and is broadly endorsed by ASEAN-WEN and its member agencies.

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