The government maintained prosecution efforts. Article 78 of the 2008 immigration law criminalizes all forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 16 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes. This article criminalizes forced labor, slavery or other similar practices, servitude and sexual exploitation. Article 79 makes it a crime punishable by two to eight years imprisonment to facilitate the movement of persons into or out of the country for the purpose of human trafficking. Article 81 provides enhanced penalties for both articles 78 and 79, when the crime is committed by a habitual offender or by police or other safety officials and when the victim is a child or when the trafficking involves “violence, intimidation or deception.” Although some of these “means” seem to fall implicitly within the scope of article 78, which criminalizes forced labor and sexual exploitation, article 81 appears to make violence, intimidation, deceit, or abuse of the vulnerability of the victim aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime. Articles 280 and 281 of the penal code prohibit forced labor, prescribing sentences ranging from two to 12 years imprisonment. A 1927 law (Law No. 8.080) criminalizes the exploitation of the prostitution of another person, with penalties ranging from two to eight years imprisonment. In addition, a 2004 sexual violence law (Law No. 17.815) criminalizes the prostitution, servitude, or sexual exploitation, including child pornography, of minors or persons with disabilities, with sentences from two to 12 years; authorities use these statutes to prosecute cases of child exploitation. Uruguayan authorities did not report how many of the cases processed under these laws were for adult or child sex trafficking. Two judges in the specialized court on organized crime in Montevideo had jurisdiction over all trafficking cases carried out by organized criminal groups of three or more individuals. Most trafficking cases were tried outside of this specialized court because they involved only one or two suspects. During the reporting period, the Interagency Committee to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons formally presented to the parliament, the judicial branch, and the attorney general’s office (AGO) a draft comprehensive anti-trafficking bill proposing legislation focused on prevention, investigation and support for victims of trafficking. The newly created gender unit within the AGO focused on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for crimes related to trafficking and the exploitation of children and adolescents.
The government did not collect comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and there was no system for tracking court cases. The AGO reported it was working on implementing a database to track cases and produce more accurate statistics. In the interim, individual courts and police departments remained the primary repositories for data collection. Uruguay’s transition from an “inquisitorial” to an “accusatorial” justice system, planned to begin in 2017, must take place before any new measures are taken to compile and centralize data. In 2016, the government initiated six investigations under article 78, three for forced labor and three for sex trafficking, and continued one sex trafficking investigation from 2015, compared with six investigations for sex trafficking initiated in 2015. In 2016, the government reported four prosecutions, two under article 78 and two under article 4 of law 17.815, compared with 16 prosecutions in 2015 and five in 2014. The government convicted three individuals for sex trafficking under article 78 in 2016, an increase from zero in 2015 and 2014. All three convictions were in the appeals process at the end of the reporting period. Authorities did not report the length of the sentences given in these cases; however, in previous instances, convicted traffickers avoided serious punishment as courts issued penalties that were inadequate to deter the crime. The government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict anyone under article 280 or article 281 of the penal code in 2016. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and an international organization jointly organized two workshops on criminal investigations of human trafficking, human smuggling, and the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. The government organized a police procedure training course on gender-based violence with a module on trafficking in persons; a total of 274 officials participated. The MOI held a training course for 225 police officers on combating gender-based violence with a focus on the sexual exploitation of children.