From 13-16 November, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), together with the government of Belize, delivered its first inter-institutional Firearms and Ammunition Evidence Management Course (EMC).

Harmonized efforts are fundamental in developing a sound national strategy to investigate and prosecute firearms-related cases and illicit trafficking in firearms and ammunition. Consequently, UNLIREC convened this initiative to strengthen coordination among security sector officials, share knowledge on key aspects of the chain of custody process, provide practical training on best practices to manage a scene under investigation, and increase the knowledge base of the relevant legal framework.

The EMC was led by international subject matter experts and contained training modules on ‘Firearms and Ammunition Identification’, ‘Legal Considerations in Criminal Investigations’, ‘Evidence Management at the Crime Scene’, ‘Evidence Examination and Analysis in the Laboratory’, ‘Intelligence and Investigation Tools’, as well as practical exercises. Participants also benefitted from presentations by INTERPOL on addressing firearms trafficking, firearms tracing and investigative tools as well as Belize´s Director of Public Prosecutions on the national legislative context.

20 national justice and law enforcement participants, including firearms examiners, forensic laboratory personnel, scenes of crimes and intelligence police officers, and public prosecutors, were trained during this course. Training on best practices for collecting, packaging, and transferring firearms and ammunition found at a scene under investigation increases the capacity of security sector officials to manage potential evidence in a way that is deemed admissible in a court of law, and ultimately allows for a reduction in impunity in firearms-related cases.

The EMC is part of UNLIREC’s Caribbean Operational Forensic Ballistics Assistance Package, which is made possible thanks to the support of the governments of Canada, Germany, and the United States of America.

UNLIREC, as the regional organ of the UN Office for Disarmament, seeks to advance the cause of practical disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of its commitment to support Member States in their implementation of international disarmament and non-proliferation instruments, in particular, the 2001 UN Programme of Action on Small Arms.