The government made increased law enforcement efforts. In December 2016, the president promulgated Law No. 2016-111 on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons, the first law to prohibit both adult and child trafficking in the country. The law prohibits sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribes penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of five to 10 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($7,998-$15,996). These penalties are sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. With regards to trafficking, the law includes in its definition of “exploitation” migrant smuggling, which is a different crime than trafficking. The new law explicitly allows the courts to reduce the sentences imposed for those who attempt to engage in trafficking but instead alert the authorities, prevent the offense from taking place, or identify accomplices. During the reporting period, Law No. 2010-272 Pertaining to the Prohibition of Child Trafficking and the Worst Forms of Child Labor remained the primary law used to prosecute child trafficking. The law prohibits compelling children into or offering them for prostitution and prescribes penalties of five to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to 50 million FCFA ($800 to $79,982); penalties can increase to life imprisonment with aggravating circumstances. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for rape. The penalties for subjecting a child to forced labor or situations akin to bondage or slavery are 10 to 20 years imprisonment and a fine, which are sufficiently stringent. Penal code articles 335 and 336 prohibit pimping and exploitation of adults and children in prostitution by means of force, violence, or abuse. Article 378 prohibits the forced labor of adults and children, prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties of one to five years imprisonment and a fine.
The government did not have a mechanism to collect and share data between ministries, so it did not gather comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Ministry of Justice solicited trafficking case data from all 31 departments. In trafficking case data from Abidjan and eight departments, the government reported investigating at least 35 alleged traffickers in 28 cases, prosecuting 19 suspects in 18 cases, and convicting eight traffickers in five cases, an increase from 27 investigations, one prosecution, and one conviction the previous reporting period, with data from Abidjan and 13 regions. The government investigated 16 alleged child traffickers under the 2010 law and 19 alleged sex traffickers under the penal code’s pimping statute. Eleven prosecutions involving seven suspects remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period, and it was unclear if the judiciary continued to investigate or had dismissed eight investigations of 15 alleged sex traffickers. Four of the eight convicted traffickers received sentences of 20 years imprisonment under the penal code’s forced prostitution statute. Judges convicted two individuals of child trafficking under the 2010 child trafficking law, sentencing one offender to three years imprisonment and 500,000 FCFA ($800) in damages to the victim and the second to 10 months imprisonment, a five million FCFA ($7,998) fine, and 250,000 FCFA ($400) in damages to the victim. In another case, the judge sentenced a trafficker who was intercepted while transporting Togolese children to Abidjan with the intent to exploit them in forced labor to 12 months imprisonment for child smuggling. Judges acquitted five suspected traffickers. Law enforcement continued to investigate six of 12 alleged child traffickers arrested the previous reporting period; there was no information available about investigations into the other six suspects. Authorities recorded seven cases of pimping involving at least 11 suspects that might have amounted to sex trafficking. The government did not provide any data regarding cases of adult forced labor.
Limited funding and resources for law enforcement created serious gaps in the government’s ability to address human trafficking. The national police’s 13-person anti-trafficking unit bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-trafficking laws throughout the country, although it only had staff in Abidjan. The unit had a budget of approximately $4,592 in 2016. Although the unit liaised with regional police on child trafficking cases, limited funding hampered its overall ability to investigate trafficking offenses, especially outside Abidjan. Resource limitations also constrained the Brigade Mondaine—the police unit charged with investigating prostitution and sex trafficking—to Abidjan and a few regional precincts, rendering the two primary anti-trafficking units unable to cover the majority of the country. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Anecdotally, an international organization reported the government transferred to other units police officers who proactively attempted to investigate cases of child domestic servitude in the northern regions, which indicates the presence of official complicity in trafficking crimes.