The government maintained minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and still has not secured any trafficking convictions. Article 60, chapter 2 of the 2010 Child Protection Code prohibits the trafficking, sale, trading, and exploitation of children, for which article 115 prescribes penalties of hard labor for an undefined period of time and a fine. Article 68 prohibits the worst forms of child labor, for which article 121 prescribes penalties between three and five years of imprisonment or fines of 1 million to 10 million African Financial Community (CFA) francs ($1,608 to $16,084) for child sexual exploitation, and article 122 prescribes penalties between three months and one year of imprisonment or fines of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($80 to $804) for forced child labor. Article 4 of the country’s labor code prohibits and penalizes forced or compulsory labor, but there are no penalties defined in the law. None of these penalties are sufficiently stringent, and the penalties prescribed for sex trafficking are not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 131 of the penal code prohibits forced prostitution and carried penalties between two and five years of imprisonment and fines between 1,000,000 and 10,000,000 CFA francs ($1,608 to $16,084). Although Congolese law prohibits some forms of trafficking of adults, it does not outlaw bonded labor or the recruitment, harboring, transport, or provision of a person for the purposes of forced labor. Draft anti-trafficking legislation, completed in partnership with an international organization in 2014, remained in draft for the third consecutive year; after adoption of a new constitution in 2015, officials returned the draft legislation to the Ministry of Justice to facilitate a second review by government stakeholders.
The government initiated the investigation and prosecution of one case involving five suspects during the reporting period, compared to four investigations and no prosecutions in 2015. The government has never convicted any traffickers. Officials charged one of the suspects for kidnapping, one for falsifying documents for the purpose of trafficking of a minor; and the other three for rape of a minor; Officials referred the falsification of documents case to the high court, where it remained awaiting trial. Many cases continued to languish, some without progress for up to six years, partly because of a significant backlog in the high court, which has never convened to hear a trafficking case.
The government did not provide any anti-trafficking training for law enforcement during the reporting period due to a lack of funding. Limited understanding of the child anti-trafficking law among law enforcement officials, judges, and labor inspectors continued to hinder the anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. There was a widespread perception of corruption throughout the government, but the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Human trafficking activists reportedly faced harassment and threats from government officials, including police, which discouraged some civil society members and government officials from reporting trafficking cases.