Environmental Authority Lining Up Overdue Bills

The bills aim to enhance legal protection for park rangers, who often find themselves in the crosshairs of poachers, and stray animals, which are routinely tortured
Park rangers are among the most hardworking yet poorly paid DOE employees.Park rangers are among the most hardworking yet poorly paid DOE employees.

Under pressure from activists to address pressing environmental concerns, the Department of Environment is finalizing two bills to help provide adequate legal protection for park rangers and animals.

During a ceremony in Bandar Abbas on Saturday to honor fallen rangers Mohammad Dehqani and Parviz Hormozi, who were shot and killed in the line of duty last June, DOE's deputy for parliamentary affairs, Seyyed Mohammad Mojabi, said a bill to enhance the legal protection afforded to park rangers "will be submitted to the government next week for a review".

Once approved by the government, the bill will be sent to the parliament where it is expected to pass without difficulty, ISNA reported.

Park rangers are among the most hardworking yet poorly paid DOE employees 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 gunfights.

Environmentalists deride the lack of legal protection for park rangers, arguing that if they are charged for murder in the course of their duty, 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 gunfight, the same protection must be extended to park rangers in similar circumstances.

Mojabi, along with DOE chief, Massoumeh Ebtekar, has been spearheading government efforts to secure legal assistance for rangers.

"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 only one or two rangers are pitted against a larger group of poachers," he said.

Poachers, who usually outnumber the wardens, have sufficient 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.

  Animal Rights Bills

Separately on Friday, an environment official said a bill to protect stray animals is also in its final stages.

Speaking to ISNA, Farhad Dabiri, deputy for biodiversity and natural environment at DOE, said a bill to protect stray animals is "currently being discussed in the Cabinet's Bills Commission."

"Before the Cabinet can vote on it, the judiciary has to approve the bill that will be handed over to the judiciary next week," he said.

A number of lawmakers have already voiced support for the bill, raising hopes among activists and environmental officials that it will sail through the Majlis.

In 2015, a video shared online showing stray dogs in Shiraz being injected with a substance presumed to be acid sparked outrage, prompting activists and celebrities to protest against animal cruelty that often goes unnoticed and unpunished.

In April, Iran Cyber Police criminalized the online sharing of media depicting animal cruelty, urging people to report any offences via the police's online portal, Cyberpolice.ir.

According to Islamic law, abusing and killing animals are considered a crime and should be dealt with by the judicial authorities. Offenders generally take to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to share footage related to animal abuse.

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