IIJ Judicial Capacity Building Initiative: Evidence Workshop for West Africa

Starting Date2019-06-25 Ending Date2019-06-27 Dakar, Senegal

On 25-27 June 2019, the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ) convened a West Africa Workshop on Evidence in Dakar, Senegal, co-hosted with the government of Senegal, and supported by the governments of Canada and Switzerland.  The workshop was held under the auspices of the IIJ Judicial Capacity-Building Initiative; one of eight IIJ Core Initiatives.

The workshop brought together 66 practitioners and experts, among them representatives of 16 different countries from across West Africa and nearby — including Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

The training focused on implementing the Abuja Recommendations on the Collection, Use, and Sharing of Evidence for Purposes of Criminal Prosecution of Terrorism Suspects (hereafter Abuja Recommendations), developed by the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law (CJ-RoL) Working Group. This document, published in June 2018, and presented and endorsed at the GCTF Ministerial Plenary Meeting in New York, offers guidance to investigators and prosecutors of terrorism cases on how to build solid cases based on strong and admissible evidence.

Participating in the workshop were prosecutors, investigators and judicial police officers dealing with forensic science, and military officers with experience working on terrorism cases. This was the first IIJ workshop which included military officers in its core audience, an important step for IIJ training in regions in which the military is assigned a quasi-law enforcement function and is often first on the scene in disrupting terrorist plots or responding to attacks — and thus plays a key role in the collection of evidence for criminal justice investigations and prosecutions of terrorism offenses.

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His Excellency Maître Malick Sall, Senegal’s Minister of Justice, opened the workshop with inspiring remarks calling on the practitioners to work together across borders to put the GCTF’s guidance into practice. Her Excellency Marion Weichelt Krupski – Swiss Ambassador, Mr. Matthieu Kimmell – Canadian Chargé d’Affaires, and Captain Sadeeq Garba – representing Nigeria, all delivered remarks echoing the importance of strengthening international cooperation and rule of law. During the three-day training, expert practitioners from West Africa, Europe and North America presented on real-world cases, with a focus on three main types of evidence covered by the Abuja Recommendations — physical forensic evidence, electronic evidence, and witness testimony — as well as battlefield evidence and judicial cooperation. Participants exchanged their own experiences in collecting, sharing, and using such evidence, and applied the Abuja Recommendations to a series of complex hypothetical exercises that the IIJ, with funding from Switzerland, developed specifically for this training. They identified major challenges to effectively using evidence in terrorism cases and discussed strategies for doing so in their own national criminal justice systems.

Initial feedback indicates that the workshop successfully enhanced practitioners’ knowledge of the Abuja Recommendations and built their capacity to operationalise these good practices in their work. The IIJ plans to continue implementing the Abuja Recommendations with a follow-on East Africa Workshop on Evidence in 2020. This training also forms a complement to the IIJ’s ongoing capacity-building project on Battlefield Evidence, which began with a Global Workshop and Judges Workshop earlier in 2019, and the newly developed IIJ Core Curriculum on Using Information Derived from Intelligence to Generate Evidence for Terrorism Investigations and Prosecutions, the first course for which will take place in July 2019.

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For more information on this workshop please contact IIJ Program Manager, Hop Wells