The government decreased law enforcement efforts and did not address a serious 2013 allegation of official complicity. Article 124 of the criminal code criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking. Inconsistent with international law, the law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The law also defined trafficking broadly to include “child adoption for commercial purposes.” While the president signed into law an update to the existing criminal code to bring article 124 in line with international standards and address these deficiencies during the previous reporting period, the updated criminal code was not projected for implementation until 2019. Article 124 prescribed penalties of house arrest for up to five years or five to eight years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent. However, with respect to sex trafficking, by allowing for house arrest in lieu of imprisonment, these penalties were not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Prosecutors could also charge traffickers using article 260 for engaging a person in prostitution through the use of force or the threat of force or fraud, which was punishable by a fine or imprisonment of three to five years if the victim was an adult, five to 10 years imprisonment if the victim was 14-17 years old, and 10 to 15 years imprisonment if the victim was younger than 14 years old.
The government initiated four trafficking investigations under article 124 in calendar year 2017, including two cases of child trafficking; the government provided no additional information about these cases, such as how many involved sex or labor trafficking. In comparison, the government conducted eight trafficking investigations in 2016. The government did not report the number of suspects prosecuted, contrasted with the prosecution of five defendants in 2016. Public data indicated that Kyrgyz courts convicted seven individuals under article 124, compared with convictions of 10 traffickers in 2016. The government did not provide information on sentencing.
In 2017, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) moved the Trafficking in Persons Police Unit from the Criminal Investigations Unit to the MVD’s Criminal Militia Service. The unit was the central coordinator for trafficking investigations across the entire country. Experts believed the move raised the profile of trafficking issues within the MVD, and would serve to improve coordination on irregular migration, but some observers expressed concern that the unit focused on tackling organized prostitution or operation of brothels as prohibited under law, rather than identifying victims and investigating trafficking cases. Advocates for victims reported there was a general lack of proactive investigation, especially if victims did not make a specific, well-supported complaint. Civil society actors reported the need for systemic training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges, particularly on how to identify victims and work with them as witnesses. The MVD conducted training for the Customs Service on pilot identification procedures. Authorities cooperated with civil society and foreign partners to train police, prosecutors, and judges; based on a 2016 MOU, an international organization and the government collaborated on training 97 judges, 77 prosecutors, and 33 police officers in 2017.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking cases remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement actions during the year. NGOs and international organizations reported law enforcement officials accepted bribes to drop cases and sometimes warned suspects prior to raids. Traffickers were reportedly also able to avoid punishment by offering victims payment to drop cases. The UN special rapporteur on the sale of children, child sex trafficking, and child pornography documented allegations of law enforcement officials’ complicity in human trafficking in a 2013 report; police officers allegedly threatened, extorted, and raped child sex trafficking victims. However, the government has never investigated the allegations from this report, citing a lack of specific or actionable information.