The government increased law enforcement efforts. Bosnia consists of two entities within the state, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska (RS). Each entity has political, legislative, and judicial authority. The Brcko District (BD) is a self-governing unit under the jurisdiction of the state. Entity-level authorities address domestic trafficking offenses internal to their territories and state-level authorities address cases with international aspects. During the reporting period, the Federation Parliament adopted articles 210a and 210b, making the trafficking laws consistent with the state, RS, and BD. Article 210a criminalizes sex trafficking, forced labor, and trafficking of a child with a minimum prescribed penalty of five years and a minimum of 10 years for trafficking of children. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 210a also criminalizes the use of services from a trafficking victim with imprisonment for six months to five years. Article 186 of the state-level criminal code prohibits sex trafficking and forced labor if the victim is exploited in a country in which he or she does not reside or have citizenship; the law punishes these crimes with a minimum of five years imprisonment. Article 186 also prescribes a mandatory minimum of 10 years imprisonment for offenses committed involving a child. RS and BD prohibit sex trafficking and forced labor with minimum prescribed penalties of three and five years respectively. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The State Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against one suspect, the same number as in 2015, issued no indictments, and suspended two separate investigations of two suspects. This was a decrease from one person indicted in 2015 and 13 persons indicted in 2014 for subjecting 672 persons to labor trafficking; the latter case—Bosnia’s largest indictment for trafficking in the country’s history—remained ongoing during the reporting period. The state convicted two persons, compared to zero convictions in 2015 and 2014; both traffickers received sentences of three years imprisonment. RS, BD, and Federation authorities increased law enforcement efforts overall. Federation authorities investigated 25 trafficking suspects prior to the adoption of Article 210a and 210b and investigated four suspects under the new article, compared to 10 suspects investigated in 2015. Federation prosecutors indicted 21 persons, an increase from four in 2015. Federation courts convicted six persons, compared to eight in 2015. One person received four months imprisonment, two persons received three years, and three persons received a two-year suspended sentence. RS authorities investigated 12 trafficking suspects but issued no indictments, compared to investigating five trafficking suspects and indicting two persons in 2015. RS did not report statistics on convictions. BD courts convicted two persons to eight months of imprisonment and acquitted one person, compared to 0 convictions in 2015. Cases in which perpetrators received sentences less than those for other serious crimes undermined the government’s record of vigorously investigating and prosecuting traffickers.
All three police academies maintained basic and advanced courses on trafficking and the national state government continued to provide basic training for prosecutors and judges on trafficking cases. The state, in partnership with OSCE, trained prosecutors and judges on labor trafficking and on interviewing techniques for child trafficking victims. However, the government reported the low understanding of forced labor and forced begging among relevant actors remained an issue. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns. During the reporting period, the state court and a Bosnian consular official entered a plea bargain for involvement in trafficking-related crimes and was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment; the Bosnian consular official, based in Paris, was charged with sustained abuse of position for issuing travel documents to facilitate the movement of potential labor trafficking victims in exchange for money. In another case, Federation courts convicted a Federation police officer and sentenced the officer to three years and three months of imprisonment for enticement to prostitution for coercing his partner to provide sexual services to clients in exchange for money.
The government increased law enforcement cooperation with foreign governments; however, the lack of bilateral agreements regarding witness protection created obstacles for witnesses and victims to participate effectively in international investigations. During the reporting period, state authorities in coordination with law enforcement in Serbia and Germany conducted synchronized raids and arrested 11 members of an organized crime group in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for trafficking and recruiting young women and girls from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia for exploitation in Germany. State prosecutors assisted the Netherlands and Austria in a joint investigation of a Bosnian and Croatian married couple forcing six Roma children to pickpocket in the Netherlands. Bosnian and French law enforcement officials, with the support of the EU’s Judicial Cooperation Unit, maintained a joint investigative team.