Regional workshop on the Prosecution of Illegal Traffic of Hazardous Wastes and Other wastes under the Basel Convention for Central and South America

Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 28 to 29 August 2013

Prosecutors play a key role in ensuring that any criminal proceedings pertaining to alleged cases of illegal traffic are successfully brought forward and handled. Ultimately, proper prosecution will ensure that the rule of law is upheld, that justice is served and that communities and the environment are protected against the harmful consequences of improperly managed transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous and other wastes. With this in mind, the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention mandated the development of an instruction manual on the prosecution of illegal traffic in hazardous wastes and other wastes, a manual that was approved during its tenth meeting in October 2011. At that time, the Conference of the Parties also requested the Secretariat of the Basel Convention to organize training activities for prosecutors, based on the manual.

The workshop for Central and South America on the Prosecution of Illegal Traffic of Hazardous Wastes and Other wastes under the Basel Convention, Buenos Aires, is the second workshop on this subject organized by the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions over the period 2012-2013. The first workshop for prosecutors took place in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, on 26-27 June 2012 for countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. Both workshops were organized with the financial support of the European Union.

Outcomes

The series of workshops are funded through the European Union under the Thematic Programme for Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources including Energy (ENRTP). The workshop was organized by the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and the Basel Convention Regional Center – Argentina.

Among the challenges identified were weaknesses in the national legal and institutional frameworks, such as incomplete implementing legislation  – lack of a clear definition of the crime, of adequate penalties and of clear procedures. Participants felt that the various legal responses to illegal traffic  – administrative, civil, criminal, alternative dispute resolution, each have their own merit, however opinions diverged with respect to their respective effectiveness.  The need for clarity as to when a specific procedure may be initiated and on the relationship between the various procedures (parallel, successive, alternative) was also highlighted.

Participants underscored that cases of illegal traffic are complex and require substantial capacity: an improper investigation can mean that a case cannot ultimately be brought forward. Therefore, besides training, participants called for access to adequate resources, for instance laboratories to identify wastes, and access to technical knowledge.

Finally, cooperation at the national level was identified as a challenge and the establishment of interagency teams involving all relevant agencies was suggested.

Based on real cases, participants also explored the practical and legal challenges in preparing a case for prosecution in particular with respect to the distinction between waste and non-waste, and the need for developing a common understanding of this distinction. Issues of jurisdiction (which State prosecutes and for which offense?) were also discussed, as well as the challenges associated with the take back of illegal shipments.

Workshop Objectives

  • Improving prosecutors’ understanding of the Basel Convention provisions relating to the illegal traffic of hazardous wastes and other wastes;
  • Promoting information exchange between prosecutors on environmental cases;
  • Increasing prosecutors’ awareness of existing networks of prosecutors, or stimulating the formation of new networks of prosecutors dealing with environmental matters, in particular the illegal traffic of hazardous wastes and other wastes.

Target Audience

The workshop provided training for prosecutors, law enforcement experts and lawyers, based on the Basel Convention's instruction manual on the prosecution of illegal traffic in hazardous wastes.  Prosecutors and legal officers from 13 countries attended the event, including officers from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

They were joined by Experts from the European Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of environmental Law (IMPEL) Cluster Transfrontier shipment of waste (TFS) Environmental Prosecutors Network, Latin American Environmental Prosecutors Network (LAEPN), UNEP Regional Office for Latin American Countries (ROLAC), Interpol and the CITES Secretariat. 

Agenda and Information Note

Download the information note for participants (English, Spanish).

Tentative Agenda (English, Spanish)

Report

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Presentations

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Background Reading

  • Basel Convention Training Manual on Illegal Traffic for Customs and Enforcement Agencies (English, Spanish)
  • Instruction manual for the legal profession on the prosecution of illegal traffic (English, Spanish)
  • Form for confirmed cases of illegal traffic (English)
  • Illegal traffic under the Basel Convention - leaflet (English, Spanish)
  • Controlling transboundary movements of hazardous wastes - leaflet (English, Spanish)