Eyes in the Courtroom

This is a court monitoring project that keeps an eye on how proceedings in wildlife crime cases are being handled by law enforcement in Kenya. Eyes in the Courtroom offers an important repository of wildlife crime data providing a baseline to measure effectiveness of law enforcement, map current and emerging trends in wildlife crime, diagnose loopholes in administration of wildlife law to guide reform interventions to strengthen law enforcement response.

WildlifeDirect court monitors visit court stations to collect wildlife crime data and maintain presence during wildlife crime courtroom trials following up cases from charging to conviction and sentencing. This offers an unprecedented opportunity to diagnose and analyze key concerns in the criminal trial process through data collection and case tracking.

WildlifeDirect has conducted court monitoring of wildlife crime cases since 2013. Our first report published in 2014 was a wake-up call. It presented findings that exposed serious loopholes in the enforcement of the Wildlife Act (1989) and championed for a repeal of the then weak legislation.  The second report published in 2016 after the enactment of new Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (WCMA 2013) revealed substantial improvement in process and outcomes of wildlife crime trials and made recommendations to strengthen Kenya’s response to wildlife crime. The third report published in 2018 examines the effect of further law enforcement reforms showing significant improvement in the war against wildlife crime. The fourth report published in 2020 draws on records of cases brought before 113 Kenyan courts in 2018–2019 under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (WCMA, 2013), Forest Conservation and Management Act (FCMA, 2016) and Fisheries Management and Development Act (FMDA, 2016). It also reviews the status of cases involving elephants and ivory initiated in 2016–2019, and of long-running cases involving major seizures of ivory dating back to 2012.

The continued monitoring of wildlife crime cases in Kenyan courts provides an assessment of good governance and accountability mechanisms which administer and deliver the rule of law in Kenya. The need to foster and enhance these values has informed the Eyes in the Courtroom survey which has four (4) broad objectives;

  1. To identify and document the outcomes of wildlife crime court trials; and,
  2. To evaluate the effect of outcomes of wildlife crime court trials on deterrence; and,
  3. To identify key loopholes and challenges in the criminal justice chain; and,
  4. To recommend and suggest reform interventions to strengthen the response to wildlife crime.