You are currently viewing SEEJ Changes Tack – Wildlife Crime and the Integrity of Criminal Justice Systems Dealing With It.
CC from top left, the Honourable Deputy President of Kenya, Righathi Gachagua; Pakistani journalist, Arshad Sharif; seven members of Kenya's Special Service Unit in a Nairobi area court.

SEEJ Changes Tack – Wildlife Crime and the Integrity of Criminal Justice Systems Dealing With It.

Those depicted have no direct relation to wildlife crime.  

Recently elected Kenyan Deputy President, the Honourable Rigathi Gachagua, appears to be on the verge of having 2021 money laundering charges withdrawn by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Pakistani journalist, Arshad Sharif, was shot and killed by uniformed Kenya police on October 23rd under circumstances that are still not clear.

Nine Kenya police officers of the Special Service Unit are presently in custody in Nairobi court over the July disappearance of Indian nationals, Mohammed Zaid Kidwai and Zulfiqar Khan along with Kenyan national Nicodemus Mwania.  

The commonality amongst the three relates to integrity within the criminal justice system.

When President Ruto named Rigathi Gachagua as his Deputy President running mate in the run up to the recent national elections, with ksh 7.3 billion ($60 million USD) money laundering charges before the courts, it was of considerable interest as to how those charges would be dispensed with on election.  It was not long in coming with police investigators recently stating that they were pressured to arraign Gachagua in 2021. The lead investigator stated: “while the investigations were still in progress, Mr Kinoti (Head of DCI) directed us to make recommendations that will enable the accused persons to face charges”.

Who does one believe? Are the police now lying so as to extricate the recently elected Deputy President from a protracted and embarrassing multi-million dollar proceeds of crime trial?  Or did the police initially conduct an improper and/or incomplete investigation that was politically motivated?  And where was the ODPP when these charges were approved?

The police account of the shooting of journalist Amar Sharif and investigation to date suffers similar credibility woes.  Not unusual for the police when caught in contradictory statements, they have moved from a shooting based on mistaken identity to now reporting that Sharif ran a police road block and fired first.

Barely a week prior to the Sharif killing, President Ruto in a public address, admitted to the police’s prior involvement in extrajudicial killings.  While the entire country had been aware state sanctioned killing  for years, it was a first for a Head of State to actually admit as much.  This admission became a lead in to the arrest of nine members of the police’s Special Service Unit for the disappearance/kidnapping of the two Indian nationals in July.  

So what does this have to do with wildlife crime and saving endangered species?  

SEEJ-AFRICA has been sitting in Kenyan courts observing wildlife crime cases for six years, covering all the high profile ivory cases and many other smaller prosecutions.  What has become abundantly clear is that the criminal justice system suffers from significant integrity issues and the more important the prosecution, the more likely that political interference, bribery, coercion and/or intimidation will take place.  

Of course, all, and I do mean ALL,  those involved in wildlife crime investigations and prosecutions, know this, but it is a topic typically given the short shrift.  All acknowledge that corruption is the prime enabler in wildlife crime, but few are actively involved in countering its effects besides the usual anti-corruption sensitising sessions, typically attended by those looking for per diems and expense top-ups.

With this in mind, SEEJ-AFRICA is now going to change tack slightly by focusing on the various criminal justice systems through a lens of wildlife crime and the perspective of integrity.  While it is virtually impossible to prove corruption in high profile wildlife cases, there is often an abundance of circumstantial evidence that can lead a person of common belief to only one conclusion. 

Wildlife crime investigations and prosecutions are continually vulnerable to those seeking the subvert the path of justice for whatever reason.

It is time to make it a more regular topic of conversation.

 

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