The government increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2011 anti-trafficking law criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking. Inconsistent with international legal standards, the law required a demonstration of threat, fraud, deception, force, or other forms of coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of 10 to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 1 million Central African CFA francs (CFA) ($88 to $1,760) for all forms of trafficking, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. If the offense involved a victim who was 15 years old or younger, the penalties increased to 15 to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 to 10 million CFA ($180 to $17,610). The penalties for debt bondage ranged from five to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 to 500,000 CFA ($18 to $880) and were also sufficiently stringent. The law was published in French and English, the two official languages of the government. The English version conflated trafficking in persons and smuggling offenses by referring to trafficking in persons offenses, as defined under international law, as “slavery in persons,” while referring to smuggling-related offenses as “trafficking in persons.” Legislation drafted in 2012 to address victim and witness protection and correct inconsistencies with international law remained pending for the sixth consecutive year.
The Delegate General of National Security (DGSN) reported investigating 89 potential sex and labor trafficking cases during the reporting period that resulted in the prosecutions of 112 suspected traffickers under penal code article 342. Because article 342 prohibited both “trafficking in persons” and “slavery in persons,” the 112 suspects may have included smugglers. The suspects were from all 10 regions of Cameroon and were either friends or family members of the potential victims. Although most of the reported cases involved alleged labor trafficking, at least five cases included suspected sex trafficking crimes. In addition to the 112 prosecutions stemming from DGSN investigations, the Ministry of Justice reported prosecuting 17 suspected traffickers, and convicting five traffickers during the reporting period, with four of those cases being tried under article 342 and one tried under charges of fraud. These efforts compared to 13 investigations, 13 prosecutions, and two convictions during the previous reporting period. The judiciary was reportedly investigating one government official for trafficking offenses that occurred over previous years.
Lawyer strikes in the Northwest and Southwest regions severely delayed court proceedings in Buea and Bamenda, where most of the trafficking cases were referred, which exacerbated judicial inefficiencies. In part because of insufficient—but improving—cooperation between the government and NGOs, and a weak judicial administration, some regional courts and NGOs encouraged victims to settle trafficking cases outside of court.
The government reported the Ministry of Justice, the DGSN, and Ministry of Social Affairs (MINAS) had each organized efforts to educate judges, law enforcement, and social workers on the provisions relevant to trafficking included in the revised penal code, although exact numbers of officials trained were unknown. In spite of these training efforts, some trafficking offenses may have been tried as child abuse or kidnapping, which carried lesser penalties.