Demand Grows for Legal Protection for Park Rangers

Demand Grows for Legal Protection for Park RangersDemand Grows for Legal Protection for Park Rangers

The murders of three park rangers last week in two separate incidents has compelled both environmental officials and activists to demand better legal protection for park wardens.

Mohammad Dehqani and Parviz Hormozi, two rangers who were patrolling the western edges of the Geno Biosphere Reserve in Hormozgan Province on Friday, were shot and killed on the spot by a pair of poachers, who were apprehended less than 48 hours later.

On Saturday, in Fars Province’s Bamou National Park, Manouchehr Shojaeian, who was pursuing illegal hunters, was shot in the chest and throat, fell off a cliff, and died hours later at a nearby hospital.

The sudden deaths of three armed park rangers in the span of two days shocked the entire country, with environmental activists and authorities calling on the government, Majlis and judiciary to enhance legal protection for park rangers.

Park rangers are among the most hardworking yet poorly paid employees of the Department of Environment who do not receive the legal protection they deserve. Numerous park rangers have also been charged in the past with murder for killing illegal hunters in gun fights.

Environmentalists deride the lack of legal protection for park rangers, arguing that if they are charged for murder in the course of their duty, then they should not be armed in the first place.

Some say if the law protects police officers who shoot and kill armed criminals in a gun fight, the same protection must be extended to park rangers in similar circumstances.

“Park rangers must receive better legal assistance,” said Mohammad Mojabi, deputy for legal and parliamentary affairs at the DOE.

  No Witnesses

He argued that because shooting incidents involving wardens and illegal hunters usually take place in far flung areas, there are no witnesses to corroborate the rangers’ account of the events, especially since often there are only one or two rangers against larger groups of poachers, IRNA reported.

The poachers, who usually outnumber the wardens, “have enough time to get rid of any incriminating evidence,” and since there is nobody at the scene to support the rangers’ claims, court rulings in most cases allow illegal hunters to get away scot-free, Mojabi said.

“We’re preparing a bill that would give park rangers the legal protection they need to do their job,” he added.

So far, 119 park rangers have been killed in the line of duty.

Mohammad Reza Tabesh, chairman of the Environment and Sustainable Development Faction in the Majlis (parliament), was quoted as saying by ISNA last week that “the parliament was ready to step in”.

While he did not elaborate, it is thought that Tabesh may have indicated that legislators would take steps to ensure the protection and security of park rangers and may be more than willing to pass a bill that would enhance their protection.

DOE Chief Massoumeh Ebtekar said on her personal channel on the smartphone messaging application Telegram that the rangers’ sacrifice “will not be in vain.”

It is indeed hoped that the death of the brave men who gave their lives to protect Iran’s conservation areas will lead to better legal assistance for park wardens, and that is only achievable if activists continue to demand enhanced protection for park rangers and the powers-that-be take concrete action to fulfill those demands.