The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores. For information on INL’s efforts around the globe, please visit https://www.state.gov/j/inl/index.htm.
In May 2012 INL assessed Benin’s law enforcement and judicial sectors. This led to a recommendation to focus on building investigative skills of the judicial police officers assigned to the Central Office for the Repression of Illicit Trafficking of Drugs and Precursors (OCERTID). The assessment also recommended U.S. promotion of early and sustained communication and cooperation between investigators and prosecutors on drug cases, to help ensure prosecutors would file charges and would be able to prove guilt through strong, evidence-based cases.
Since this assessment took place, INL has allocated significant resources to Benin. From 2012 to date, INL has obligated $9M to support counter-drug programming in Benin through:
- $4.3M into an inter-agency agreement (IAA) with DOJ’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Assistance (DOJ/OPDAT) to build the capacity of judicial police officers, public prosecutors, and investigative judges to try drug trafficking and related cases. Funded through February 28, 2019. Additional funds will be allocated for activities through June 30, 2019.
- $1.5M transferred to USAID through an MOU for anti-corruption projects to complement and reinforce counter-drug programming investments: supporting Benin’s anti-corruption commission (ANLC) and supporting a national network of civil society organizations (FONAC) to hold local government accountable and develop anti-corruption training or awareness events for law enforcement, civil servants, and the general public.
- $3.3M into an inter-agency agreement with DOJ’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) to build the capacity of judicial police officers involved in drug trafficking and related cases. Funded through September 30, 2018.
Counter-drug assistance to police (ICITAP):
The 2014-2018 program sponsored workshops delivered through FBI invitational travel teaching core investigative competencies to units with a role in narcotics investigations. The program also gave instruction on professional ethics (as a corruption control for narcotics detectives). ICITAP developed a block of instruction entitled “Professional Ethics and Integrity in Law Enforcement.” This three-hour module was delivered to over 1,500 police officers. ICITAP also provided strategic guidance and recommendations to senior Beninese officials to reform and improve recruitment, selection, and pre-service training for judicial police officers, and sponsored the publication of a police ethics training manual.
ICITAP created/convened two Beninese justice sector working groups: an interagency counter narcotics group comprised of the heads of law enforcement units with responsibility for drug seizures or investigations, which meets monthly at OCERTID’s headquarters, to facilitate intra-national information sharing and cooperation; and a blended law enforcement/magistrates “women in the criminal justice sector networking group,” which meets monthly to discuss gender equity and empowerment.
Counter-drug assistance to police, investigative judges, and prosecutors (OPDAT):
A career federal prosecutor serves as Resident Legal Advisor covering Togo and Benin. The 2013-2019 program provides technical and financial support for the drafting and dissemination of a counter-narcotics procedural manual in each country. The long-term goal of these manuals is to elevate investigations in both countries, moving away from couriers and encouraging more complete, evidence-based investigations that lead to credible and effective prosecutions.
In Benin, the manual was completed in March 2016 and distributed widely during a national dissemination campaign in July and August 2016. Efforts now focus on targeted trainings for law enforcement units and court jurisdictions. Every training workshop is conducted by Benin professionals involved in the drafting and dissemination process. Aside from presenting the manual, providing basic instruction in drug identification and smuggling methods, and emphasizing the importance of inter-agency communication and collaboration, these sessions have raised the profile of key drug-fighting agencies (such as the national drug unit and national drug lab), and sensitized criminal justice actors on the realities and extent of drug trafficking in Benin. Togo’s manual was completed in 2017. A team of professionals in Togo drafted an analogous procedural manual there, profiting from the technical assistance from two members of the Benin team. OPDAT also has a pilot project to track narcotics cases in four court jurisdictions surrounding Cotonou, aimed at assessing the number and types of cases coming into the courts and monitoring their flow from referral to resolution.
- Reinforcing and deepening strong U.S.-Benin bilateral relations through sustained program outreach.
- Two significant written protocols drafted by a collective of dedicated Beninese and Togolese officers, prosecutors, and judges. Through the drafting process, these individuals gained in-depth knowledge of narcotics-related laws, pre-trial investigative steps, and trial procedure related to narcotics control. The manual also provides guidance on successful conviction strategies within the existing legal framework.
- Regular trainings to law enforcement on a range of investigative competencies.
- Regular trainings with substantial national reach on the narcotics manual resource and how it can be used to improve investigations and prosecutions in Benin and Togo.
- Regular coordination meetings between Beninese law enforcement units and between law enforcement and prosecutors.
- Regular coordination meetings between Beninese police, prosecutors, and judges and their counterparts in Togo.