The second edition of thereport on the summary of forest and wildlife offencespublished by the Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) in 2021 analyses Cameroon's forest and wildlife litigation based on the summaries (a document presenting court cases and files monitored by the forest and wildlife administration over a given period) published by the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife and obtained by FLAG over the period 2019-2020.
In particular, it presents the status of the said litigation over the reference period, the dynamics of criminal and civil proceedings in the matter, and the quality of participation and collaboration between stakeholders.
Forest and wildlife litigation is gradually increasing in the countries of the Congo Basin, and particularly in Cameroon, as it is shown by the register of forest and wildlife offences. Published on a regular basis, this document produced by the Ministry of Forests and Fauna (MINFOF) presents the cases before the courts and the cases followed up by this administration in forestry and wildlife matters. Over the period 2016-2018, based on this richly informative document, the Field Legality Advisory Group had already highlighted the density of this litigation, the problems recorded and the way to manage them, and the possible solutions to remedy them. With a view to continuity, the second edition covers the period 2019-2020, with the aim of gauging the volume of forestry and wildlife litigation, assessing the dynamics of criminal and civil proceedings, and the level and quality of participation and collaboration of the various stakeholders at the different stages of litigation.
The methodology therefore mainly consisted of analysing the summaries for the 1st quarter of 2019 and the 2nd half of 2020, consulting legal databases such as Wildlex, reviewing the existing literature on the summary of offences and holding discussions with MINFOF and justice administration officials. At the end of this study, concerning the forestry and wildlife litigation in Cameroon, it was revealed that: - the volume of forestry and wildlife cases is clearly on the increase, rising from 1,036 cases between 2016 and 2018 to 1,225 cases between 2019 and 2020; - wildlife matters remain predominant in the courts, with 82% of cases before Cameroonian courts; - as in the first edition, the Tcholliré Court of First Instance (TPI) remains the court with the most forestry and wildlife cases. It is followed by the Court of First Instance of Ngaoundéré and the Court of First Instance of Bertoua, which makes its debut in the top 3; - 89% of the offences contained in the list of offences are committed in Cameroon's state forests.
It is worth mentioning that 72% of the offences mentioned in the summaries analysed took place in protected areas, which are supposed to be areas reserved for the conservation and preservation of biodiversity, but which are heavily targeted by offenders; - the offence of "Keeping and circulating within the territory of live protected animals, their remains or trophies without a certificate of origin" is the most redundant in the summaries of offences. It is followed by several others, such as "Slaughter or capture of protected animals either during periods when hunting is closed or in areas where hunting is prohibited ".
The average time between referral to a judge and a court ruling is 7 months;
10% of offenders against forestry and wildlife law are women, an increase of 6% compared to the results of the first edition.
At the level or procedures, various difficulties persist, resulting in a status quo in the criminal and civil procedural dynamic. These include :
MINFOF's persistent failure to comply with the procedural rules for settling forest-related disputes;
Weaknesses on the part of MINFOF agents in classifying infractions; persistent errors in the recording of infractions;
a clear failure in the transmission of the information needed to draw up summaries of infractions;
insufficient information in the list of offences.
Finally, forestry and wildlife litigation encourages interaction between various players. Firstly, with regard to the relationship between special police officers and the Public Prosecutor's Office, the special police officers are under the dual authority of MINFOF and the Public Prosecutor.
Moreover, they sit after the latter during hearings. It is rare to see regular exchanges between MINFOF and MINJUSTICE, even though this is necessary for smoother collaboration and coordination in the repression of forest and wildlife infractions. With regard to the relationship between MINFOF and the legal profession, MINIFOF regularly uses the services of lawyers, bailiffs and even notaries during the proceedings.
In view of the results obtained, it is recommended that MINFOF :
continuously build the capacity of MINFOF staff;
empower officials for monitoring litigation;
set up a committee to review the summary before publication;
strengthen its collaboration with MINJUSTICE through a "bottom up" approach.
For further information, please download the document below:
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