The government increased law enforcement efforts. The 2014 Special Law Against Trafficking in Persons criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 14 years imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, the law considered the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime; the penalties increased to 16-20 years imprisonment for trafficking offenses involving these factors.
The government investigated and prosecuted both sex trafficking and forced labor. In 2017, authorities investigated 76 cases (73 sex trafficking cases, two forced labor cases, and one domestic servitude case), compared to 55 sex trafficking cases in 2016. Authorities prosecuted nine cases and convicted six sex traffickers in 2016, compared to seven prosecutions and six sex traffickers convicted in 2016. Offenders convicted in 2017 received sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years imprisonment. Notably in 2017, authorities investigated and prosecuted a case of a gang member compelling women and children to engage in forced labor and sexual servitude. The judicial system’s inexperience with trafficking cases, overreliance on victim testimony, and threats of reprisal from traffickers impeded efforts to hold traffickers accountable. During the year, the government provided anti-trafficking training to approximately 800 government employees, including police, prosecutors, judges, labor inspectors, immigration officials, physicians, nurses, students, and teachers. The Specialized Human Trafficking and Related Crimes unit of the National Civil Police comprised nine persons focused on trafficking and 23 persons focused on migrant smuggling, sexual crimes, and special or international investigations. The Attorney General’s anti-trafficking unit comprised 16 persons, including nine prosecutors. Government officials reported a need to increase staffing and funding, both of which limited their ability to investigate and prosecute cases.
The government reported that in a 2012 case of three prison guards arrested for facilitating sex trafficking, the anti-trafficking unit was unable to locate additional victims to strengthen its case. Regarding a 2009 investigation of trafficking-related complicity by the former head of the prosecutorial anti-trafficking unit, the Attorney General’s office reported it made efforts to locate the alleged victims; the investigation remained open at the close of the reporting period.