Judges go to nature conservation school

A real time, virtual course on the application of the World Heritage Convention designed for prosecutors and judges took place last week, organized by the Galapagos Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Judicial Council of Ecuador and the UNESCO office in Quito.  

The training targeted judges, prosecutors, public defenders, clerks and police forces responsible for the application of environmental protection laws in Galapagos.  Its objective was to help them better understand the conceptual and practical application of the Convention as a binding legal instrument in support of their work.  The course gave participants the chance to hear the voice of experts in the field, with case studies on how to apply the Convention in the administration of justice.

Spearheaded in large part by the United States, the World Heritage Convention was adopted by the United Nations (UNESCO) in 1972, and Galapagos was the first ever site to have been official recognized as being “World Heritage” in 1978.   Countries that have ratified the convention (191 of them) are legally bound by international treaty to protect the World Heritage sites they submitted to UNESCO for official recognition.   This simple fact gives the legal community in each country a strong tool when trying to prosecute people who have been caught destroying the values for which a World Heritage site is recognized – such as illegal fishermen, or unscrupulous developers, and when national legislation is not necessarily up to the task.

According to Sea Shepherd, this is the first ever such course to have been organized, globally.   

CNH Tours is proud to say that we are good friends with both Dr. Hugo Echeverria, the head of the criminal law project at the Galapagos Sea Shepherd Society office, who spearheaded this initiative, as well as with Alcira Sandoval Ruiz, the culture specialist in charge of World Heritage issues, at the UNESCO office in Quito, which supported it and participated in it. 

Congratulations Hugo and Alcira for this great initiative!  We hope this work can be replicated for the legal protectors of World Heritage sites around the world!