On 24-25 June 2015 in Lima, Peru, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), with the support of the Government of the United States, convened a workshop on its project ‘Combating Illicit Firearms and Ammunition Trafficking in the Caribbean through Operational Forensic Ballistics’.
The workshop brought together designated government focal points from seven beneficiary Member States (Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago), as well as experts from international, regional and national organizations, including the US Department of Justice; the US Department of State; the US Department of Homeland Security; CARICOM´s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), and a representative from the Government of Canada. The discussions focused on introducing participating Member States to the operational ballistics forensics project currently underway in Caribbean States.
During the workshop, participants shared information on forensic ballistics casework, quality management systems, equipment and technology, information sharing on national, international and regional levels and opportunities for capacity development for firearms and tool mark examiners.
Participants underscored the importance of forensic ballistics as a key tool in the fight against firearms trafficking and armed violence and welcomed UNLIREC’s assistance in the region. During the discussions, representatives highlighted the current challenges and resource constraints faced on a daily basis, particularly as this relates to caseloads, limited staff, training, and the lack of required technology and equipment to effectively carry out their responsibilities. Officials also noted the need for implementing and updating standard operating procedures in order to ensure uniformity and validity in all processes undertaken. Additionally, participants raised concerns regarding crime scene contamination, maintaining the chain of custody, proper packaging of evidence and crime scene reconstruction.
Participants also provided feedback for the development and planning of upcoming technical assistance to Caribbean States for 2015 and 2016 whereby UNLIREC will assist national authorities to undertake baseline assessments of their current ballistic forensics capabilities, develop national action plans and national competency testing frameworks, as well as provide technical support through the development of standard operating procedures, training and equipment procurement.
This initiative supported by the United States forms part of UNLIREC’s assistance to States in their implementation of international small arms control instruments.