The Ministry of Justice – in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia (WCS) – held a second workshop for the Kingdom’s prosecutors and judges to discuss their experiences and give input on how to deal with wildlife trafficking.

The May 30-31 workshop – “Preparing guidelines for addressing wildlife trafficking” – was presided over by Ministry of Justice undersecretary of state Khieu Sophany and attended by 60 judges and prosecutors from across the country. The first workshop was held for two days on May 26-27 in 2021.

Sophany said the second consultation workshop aimed to gather additional insights, commentary and knowledge about the experiences of the 60 judges and prosecutors in attendance in order to contribute their input to the draft guidelines now being written to address the issue of wildlife trafficking in Cambodia in a more comprehensive manner.

“This guideline document will be helpful to all judges and prosecutors when dealing with wildlife trafficking cases and they will be the first such guidelines ever established in the history of Cambodia’s criminal justice system,” she said.

Sophany also urged and encouraged all judges and prosecutors to contribute their knowledge and experiences regarding the most successful means to deal with the problem of wildlife trafficking in the Kingdom. The guidelines will be compiled together and be something along the lines of a handbook to assist judges and prosecutors with decisions about what the most appropriate charges or sentences might be for such cases.

WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha said he and his organisation welcomed the initiative.

“This conference they held is a very useful means of soliciting input for the handbook of procedures for prosecuting wildlife trafficking cases.

“In order to obtain this input, the judges and prosecutors in the capital and provinces share their experiences with the various cases that have passed through the courts and that can then be used to form the basis for improving the contents of the handbook as they prepare it,” he said.

He added that the handbook was oriented towards prosecutions of trafficking cases and that hopefully through these guidelines awareness will be raised among judges and prosecutors about the need to prosecute wildlife traffickers.

“Speaking specifically, this handbook is designed to supplement the knowledge of the prosecutors and judges so that they understand about the importance of wildlife, the impact of wildlife loss and wildlife trafficking, and the legal aspects concerning wildlife trafficking within both a national and global framework,” he said.

He said the ministry has not yet set a date for the official launch of the handbook because stakeholders are still in the process of gathering more input and the workshop was one means to gather more of it efficiently and quickly.

Sophany said the contents of the handbook, when finalised, will focus on the management of investigations and the prosecution and sentencing of wildlife trafficking cases in order to eliminate or suppress the trade.

This will include advice on the role of prosecutors in leading the coordination of investigations, the clear planning and management of investigating risks to ensure prosecution as well as prosecutorial techniques that can be used at trial, such as getting testimony from wildlife experts.