From 27 February to 2 March, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), conducted activities in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, aimed at strengthening criminal investigations by national authorities and improve forensic ballistic capacity. Activities included UNLIREC’s inter-institutional Firearms and Ammunition Evidence Management Course (EMC) from 27 February – 1 March, followed by a National Executive Meeting (NEM) at the Ministry of National Security on February 2.

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 process a scene under investigation, and increase the knowledge base of the relevant legal framework.

The EMC training was led by international subject matter experts and contained 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 field exercises. Participants also benefitted from presentations by the Senior State Counsel, Director of Public Prosecutions, on the national legislative context to prosecute firearms-related offenses and by INTERPOL on addressing firearms trafficking, firearms tracing, and investigative tools available.

The Police Commissioner, Provost of the Police Academy, Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Forensic Science Centre, and the Deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy, attended the launch of the EMC at the Police Academy in Port of Spain. 35 justice and law enforcement participants, including firearms examiners, forensic laboratory personnel, crime scene investigators, intelligence police officers, police prosecutors and public prosecutors were trained during the 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 Executive Meeting with senior leadership of the Ministry of National Security discussed the recommendations made in UNLIREC’s 2015 National Assessment of Trinidad and Tobago’s forensic ballistics capabilities. The meeting also reviewed the recommendations that have been implemented as well as areas for future assistance.

Both the EMC and NEM are 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.