The government maintained law enforcement efforts but did not address serious allegations of official complicity. Article 124 of the criminal code, entitled “Trafficking in Persons,” criminalizes both sex and labor trafficking of adults and children and covers a non-trafficking offense, “child adoption for commercial purposes.” Contrary to international law, article 124 requires the prosecutor to prove the offender used force, blackmail, fraud, deception, or abduction for cases of sex trafficking regardless of whether the victim is a child or adult. However, to address these deficiencies, the president signed into law an update to the existing criminal code that will bring article 124 in line with international standards during the reporting period but the government has not yet implemented the amendments. Article 124 prescribes penalties of five to 20 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Prosecutors may also charge traffickers using article 260 for engaging a person in prostitution through the use of force or the threat of force or fraud, which is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of three to five years, or longer in the presence of aggravating circumstances. When the victim is a child aged 14-17 years, the penalty is five to 10 years imprisonment, and when the victim is younger than 14 years, the penalty is 10 to 15 years imprisonment. Article 261 criminalizes organizing others into prostitution or maintaining a brothel without the use or threat of physical violence, and imposes the same penalties for child victims as are set forth in article 260. Article 15 of the code on children prohibits forced child labor.
The government initiated eight trafficking investigations under article 124 in 2016, including five sex trafficking cases and two child forced labor cases; it is unknown whether the remaining case was sex or labor trafficking. In comparison, in 2015 the government conducted four trafficking investigations. Authorities did not report additional investigations under other articles that involved inducing minors into prostitution compared to 18 additional investigations in 2015. The prosecutor general’s office (PGO) initiated five prosecutions of criminal cases under article 124—two of the five for labor trafficking—involving an unknown number of suspects in 2016, compared with six cases involving an unknown number of suspects in 2015. In the five prosecuted criminal cases, involving nine victims of trafficking, the government convicted 10 offenders under article 124 in 2016, compared with four offenders convicted in two cases in 2015. The government did not report on sentences or whether the convicted offenders were sentenced to prison.
Advocates for victims reported there was a general lack of proactive investigation. Such advocates indicate police generally did not pursue investigations unless victims made a specific, well-supported complaint. During the reporting period, a national-level department in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) continued to oversee national anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; however, a major restructuring of the MVD was ongoing and future staffing levels remained unknown. Despite the uncertainty, the unit developed criteria to identify victims and participated in interagency working groups. Civil society actors reported the need for systemic training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges, particularly on how to identify victims and work with them as witnesses. Authorities cooperated with civil society and foreign partners to train police, prosecutors, and judges; based on a 2016 MOU, an international organization and the government collaborated on a three-day training for 24 judges in January 2017 and a training for 23 prosecutors in February 2017. The Supreme Court and PGO provided trainers for both trainings.
Corruption continued to be a systemic problem in the Kyrgyz Republic. NGOs and international organizations reported law enforcement officials accepted bribes to drop cases and sometimes warned suspects prior to raids. Traffickers were reportedly also able to avoid punishment by offering victims payment to drop cases. The UN special rapporteur on the sale of children, child sex trafficking, and child pornography documented allegations of law enforcement officials’ complicity in human trafficking in a 2013 report; police officers allegedly threatened, extorted, and raped child sex trafficking victims. However, the government has never investigated the allegations from this report, nor did it report the investigation, prosecution, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.