The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The 2012 Honduran anti-trafficking law prohibits all forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties ranging from 10 to 15 years imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, in contrast to the international definition, the law establishes the use of force, deceit, or intimidation as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime and defines illegal adoption without the purpose of exploitation as a form of human trafficking. The government published regulations implementing the law in January 2017, which provided guidance on how to properly enforce the mandates of the CICESCT. The CICESCT, with funding and assistance from a foreign government, evaluated the 2012 law and issued a number of recommendations, including amending the law to include the means of force, deceit, or intimidation as essential elements of the crime; improving victim assistance by compensating victims; and providing additional financial, logistical, and technical resources for service provision.
The government reported investigating at least 41 cases of suspected trafficking and initiating prosecution of 41 suspects in 11 cases for sex trafficking. It convicted nine traffickers in eight cases, including one case of forced labor, compared with initiating prosecution of 24 suspects in nine cases and 13 convictions in the previous reporting period. In 2016, convicted offenders were fined and received sentences ranging from six to 15 years imprisonment, compared to 10 to 15 years imprisonment in 2015. Civil society organizations reported concerns that traffickers were often prosecuted for lesser crimes with lower penalties, such as pimping. Widespread impunity for all crimes, including trafficking in persons and corruption, remained a challenge. While the government convicted two complicit officials in 2015, it did not report any prosecutions or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses in 2016. Authorities investigated several cases in which a gang appeared to force victims to engage in criminal activity. In the one case brought to trial, authorities found enough evidence to bring charges for sex trafficking.
A lack of adequate human and material resources limited the effectiveness of investigators and prosecutors. Authorities cooperated on trafficking investigations with officials from Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and the United States. The government, including the CICESCT, provided anti-trafficking training to local anti-trafficking committees; justice system, immigration, labor, and health officials; NGOs; and businesses. Police and prosecutors also received training on investigating and prosecuting organized crime, including trafficking in persons, from a foreign government. NGOs funded by international donors delivered anti-trafficking training to students, parents, teachers, church communities, women’s groups, journalists, and local officials, often with support from the government’s anti-trafficking commission.