The government increased its law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. The 2016 Law No. 133, On the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons and Illicit Smuggling of Migrants, criminalized labor and sex trafficking; it prescribed penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law considered the involvement of a minor or if a victim was forced into prostitution as aggravating circumstances for which the penalties increased to 20 years imprisonment. Law No.111, Regarding the Fight Against Terrorism and Other Serious Crimes of 2011, remained in effect and also prohibited labor and sex trafficking, and prescribed penalties of 10 to 15 years imprisonment, which were also sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. These two similar laws have some divergent definitions and penalties, which at times caused confusion that sometimes hampered law enforcement, prosecutorial, and judicial officials’ ability to effectively prosecute suspected traffickers.
During the reporting year, the government investigated 250 potential trafficking cases; while an increase from nine trafficking cases the previous year, this number also included many trafficking-related crimes like smuggling or domestic abuse. While the government reported prosecuting nine suspected traffickers in six cases, all under the 2016 anti-trafficking law, judges convicted all defendants for smuggling due to insufficient evidence to prove trafficking indicators; it prosecuted and convicted on smuggling charges 10 suspected traffickers in seven cases in the previous reporting period. However, for the first time, the government convicted one individual for forced labor under the 2016 anti-trafficking law, from a case that commenced in July 2013; officials handed down a 20-year prison term during the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses in 2017.
During the reporting period, the government appointed a deputy prosecutor to streamline and ensure effectiveness of all anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, and the justice ministry added a senior advisor position focused solely on trafficking, in an attempt to increase the number of trafficking cases investigated and prosecuted and strengthen coordination of trafficking efforts, respectively. In addition, Djibouti’s police chief created a new unit to investigate child begging, including children forced to do so; the unit investigated an unspecified number of cases during the reporting period. The government continued to provide in-kind contributions to support anti-trafficking trainings facilitated and funded by international organizations. In 2017, an unknown number of law enforcement academy instructors and justice officials participated in two separate training programs, conducted by an international organization, which focused on effective trafficking investigations and intragovernmental coordination, and proper victim interviewing techniques. Additionally, each law enforcement academy in Djibouti maintained training on recognizing trafficking cases, which were incorporated into basic orientation courses. Prosecutorial and justice officials with trafficking expertise provided training to their interagency colleagues on how to differentiate trafficking and smuggling cases, and how to appropriately handle such cases. In a specific example, these trained stakeholders briefed health professionals and other front-line responders on specific trafficking indicators they might encounter and to what entity they should report.