Transnational and international crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering and environmental offences are becoming more complex and are having an increasingly corrosive effect on economic development and governance in Africa.
Criminal enterprises and terror organisations are becoming progressively sophisticated, particularly in the utilisation of communications technology in conducting their activities, and the concealment and movement of the finances for criminal acts. Responding to these threats, in terms of investigating and prosecuting these threats demands much from African states, including greater cooperation and networking, increasing knowledge about these offences and strengthening the capacity of investigators and prosecutors.
It is in this context that the 8th Africa Prosecutors Association Annual Conference and General Meeting convened. The Africa Prosecutors Association (APA), an organisation of 30 African prosecution authorities, was established in 2003 to enhance cooperation between prosecution agencies and authorities in Africa. Such a continental response is deemed necessary in stemming transnational organised crime and also to prevent the continent from being used as a haven for criminals.
Among other issues, the APA aims to bolster rule of law responses to crime, assist prosecutors, promote international cooperation, promote adherence to prosecutorial ethics and harmonise legislation among states. The APA convenes annually to entrench its objectives and address the growing challenges facing African prosecutors.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) assisted in the organisation of the conference and AGM. This year’s conference was themed ‘Collaboration and Networking for Effective Prosecutions of Specific Transnational and Priority Crimes’. Some 150 prosecutors and investigators from 12 African countries were present, including prosecutorial authorities from Angola, Botswana, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Senior government officials such as Deputy Minister John Jeffery of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa were also present, as were representatives from the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Netherlands Forensic Institute and the International Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa.
APA President and Namibian Prosecutor-General, Advocate Olyvia Imalwa, emphasised the importance of investigators and prosecutors having the knowledge and skills required to address these challenges, along with the need for greater exchange amongst Africans in terms of their experiences.
Advocate Imalwa spoke directly to prosecutors, noting the value of their work and the fact that African citizens, particularly the poor and disempowered, rely on them for the protection of human rights. She emphasised that theirs was often a difficult enterprise because of the power and influence wielded by those under investigation. Finally, Advocate Imalwa noted the importance of both formal and informal cooperation.
She noted that while formal cooperation is central, personal contact with colleagues in other countries is crucial in ensuring a coordinated approach to the prosecution of serious crimes.
Interagency collaboration among police, intelligence, prosecutors and other agencies was identified as key in strengthening criminal justice responses to crime. Collaboration ensures proper evidence collection and facilitates the use of such evidence in trial. Various case studies, including the Henry Okah terrorism trial, were detailed to illustrate the role of collaboration in addressing these crimes.
The need for the enforcement of preventative strategies was also discussed. The importance of relevant legislation was stressed, and it was agreed that the importance of implementing such legislation could not be overstated. Implementing global strategies for crimes was identified as crucial.
A final key area was the need for the protection of witnesses, victims and other vulnerable people, also in the prevention and combating of sexual offences. Witness protection was described as central to successful prosecutions.
Advocate Imalwa thanked the ISS for its constant readiness to partner with the APA. Prime Minister José Maria Neves of Cape Verde noted the importance of coordination among prosecutors around Africa as well as between prosecutors and investigators. He thanked the APA for choosing Cape Verde as the host for this year’s conference.
The Praia Declaration of 2013 for the collaboration and Networking for Effective Prosecution of Specific Transnational and Priority Crime was adopted.