Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN) is a Non-Government Organization incorporated in Uganda to give support in investigation, prosecution and media reporting in Uganda. NRCN also fights corruption in the wildlife crime law enforcement process in Uganda. It’s evidenced that corruption and connivances among some wildlife crime law enforcement agencies and the traffickers is the major reason why Uganda is used as a transit route for illegal wildlife products from the neighboring countries.
Connivances and corrupt practices also spill over to the trial process. This exhibited in a situation where the court gives high custodial sentence and low fines which are not commensurate with the said custodial sentence. This practice encourages traffickers to transit through Uganda while knowing that if arrested there is an option of a low fine. It’s not in doubt that criminal network weighs the risk versus the opportunity for success and if the risk and cost involved is low then the crime can be committed if the risk is high and the cost involved if arrested is equally high then the crime will not be committed.
In order to deal with challenges in the prosecution of wildlife crime, NRCN has mentored young Ugandan lawyers in wildlife crime prosecution and legal advisory. The legal advisor accompanies the investigation in every operation to ensure during the investigation and operation processes the due process of the law are fully complied with and gap is left for the suspects to explore during the trail process. Our Legal Advisor advices on the appropriateness of the charges, participates in the interrogation process and fight corruption at the time of arrest by ensuring that the suspect does not bribe the investigators during the pretrial processes.
NRCN also have lawyers who are duly appointed and licensed by Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute wildlife cases throughout the Uganda. Having a specialized wildlife crime prosecutors in house has helped improves on the prosecution of wildlife crime by ensuring speedy and timely trials, development and presentation of authentic legal arguments coupled with prayers for deterrent sentences without options of fines. This approach has improved on the nature of sentences passed in the courts of law in Uganda.
NRCN team handles wildlife crime prosecution in collaboration with Uganda Wildlife Authority and Directorate of Public Prosecution. Since prosecution of criminal is the responsibility of the state, for effective control of the processes, the office of Director of Public prosecution sanctions all the files investigated by NRCN team prior to the prosecution and the DPP also controls the prosecution processes. NRCN team then files quarterly reports on all cases prosecuted by the team.