The government maintained law enforcement efforts by investigating, prosecuting, and convicting sex traffickers, but did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any labor traffickers. The 2003 Law on Human Smuggling and Trafficking (Law 137-03) prohibits most forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes penalties of 15 to 20 years imprisonment and fines—penalties sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, in contrast to the international definition of trafficking in persons, the law requires prosecutors to prove that a trafficker used the means of force, fraud, or coercion for sex trafficking of individuals under 18 years of age. It also defines trafficking more broadly to include forced marriage and illegal adoption without requiring that either marriage or adoption have exploitation as a purpose. Prostitution is legal, but promoting the prostitution of others is prohibited by article 334 of the penal code, which prescribes penalties of six months to three years imprisonment and fines. Article 25 of the Child Protection Code of 2003 prohibits the offering, delivering, or accepting, without regard to means used, anyone under 18 years of age for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labor, or any other purpose that demeans the individual, for remuneration or any other consideration, and prescribes a penalty of 20 to 30 years imprisonment and a fine. Prosecutors may use these provisions to charge and prosecute sex traffickers in addition to or instead of Law 137-03.
In 2016, the government initiated 25 investigations—23 for sex trafficking and two for forced begging—and prosecuted 40 alleged traffickers, compared with 15 investigations and prosecutions of 49 alleged traffickers in 2015. The government secured convictions of 13 defendants in seven cases, compared to 20 defendants convicted in seven cases in 2015; sentences ranged from five to 20 years imprisonment. The national police anti-trafficking unit, in cooperation with an NGO, planned and conducted investigations, which resulted in the arrest of six traffickers and identification of eight victims. The government, in cooperation with a foreign government, conducted two major operations resulting in the identification of 61 victims and the arrest of nine alleged traffickers, including an army official. Observers and prosecutors reported human and financial resource shortages impeded law enforcement efforts.
An attorney general’s office review of 2010-2014 trafficking cases, conducted during the prior reporting period, revealed a number of gaps in law enforcement efforts: inadequate investigation resulting in a lack of evidence to prosecute; insufficient efforts to secure the cooperation of victims and families; and cases prosecuted under inappropriate provisions of the law. The government prosecuted a police officer for participating in a sex trafficking ring that involved child victims, but the officer was acquitted. The government cooperated with governments in the Caribbean, Europe, and Central and South America on investigations of transnational trafficking cases. The government offered anti-trafficking courses at the National Defense Institute, Police Institute, School of Justice, School of Public Ministry, Intelligence School of the Navy, and Judiciary School. Police recruits, prosecutors, judges, and court staff participated in trainings offered by NGOs.