The government increased law enforcement efforts, although official complicity remained a concern. Law No.2016-111 on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 10 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($8,790-$17,590) for adult trafficking and 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 50 million FCFA ($17,590-$87,930) for child trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, judges also used the 2010 child labor and child trafficking law and the criminal code to convict traffickers. The 2010 law remained the primary law used to prosecute child trafficking, and it criminalized child sex trafficking and labor trafficking with 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 20 million FCFA ($8,790-$35,170). Articles 335 and 336 of the Ivoirian Criminal Code criminalized the pimping and exploitation of adults and children for the purpose of forced prostitution with penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million to 10 million FCFA ($1,760-$17,590).
The government did not have a mechanism to collect and share data between ministries, so it did not gather or report comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. However, several government entities collected data, including the Ministry of the Interior and Security’s Sub Directorate of the Criminal Police for the Fight against Child Trafficking and Juvenile Delinquency (also known as the anti-trafficking unit or ATU) and transnational organized crime unit (UCT); Brigade Mondaine—the police unit charged with investigating prostitution and sex trafficking; the Ministry of Women, Families, and Children (MWFC); and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (MOJ). With data from Abidjan and all departments, the government reported investigating 147 cases, prosecuting 56 suspects, and convicting 47 traffickers. This is compared to 59 investigations, 27 prosecutions, and 20 convictions with data from Abidjan and 33 departments in the previous reporting period. Of the 51 prosecutions, the government initiated 38 in the current reporting period and continued 13 from the previous period. Entities reported 27 sex trafficking investigations and 88 for child labor trafficking and did not report the types of trafficking for the remaining investigations; alleged traffickers included suspects from Cote d’Ivoire, China, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Judges convicted traffickers under the 2016 and 2010 laws and the criminal code for trafficking, pimping, solicitation, exploitation of minors, and the worst forms of child labor. Judges levied both fines and prison sentences to all convicted traffickers; prison sentences ranged from six months to 20 years and fines ranged from 500,000 to 10 million FCFA ($880-$17,590). Of the 47 convictions, 11 traffickers each received sentences of 10 months’ imprisonment which was below the sentences prescribed in the 2016 anti-trafficking law and articles 335 and 336 of the penal code. Judges acquitted four alleged traffickers. The government did not report any cases of adult forced labor. In April 2018, French law enforcement investigated a trafficking network in Herault, France and Daloa, Cote d’Ivoire that smuggled Ivoirians to France for sex and labor trafficking; Ivoirian authorities coordinated with French investigators in the investigation, which remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, official corruption and complicity in trafficking remained concerns. During the reporting period, an NGO alleged five gendarmes and two military firefighters, including the victim’s trafficker, abducted at gunpoint a 14-year-old rape and trafficking victim from the NGO shelter where she was receiving care. The Research Brigade of the Gendarmes completed its investigation into the aforementioned case in March 2019 and passed the report to the military tribunal. The NGO filed an official complaint with the military tribunal, which was pending at the end of the reporting period. During the previous reporting period, a government official reportedly asked police to release a central suspect in one alleged trafficking case; in another potential trafficking case, NGOs alleged a government official was involved. Law enforcement did not report investigating either government official for trafficking-related corruption or complicity during the reporting period.
Limited funding and resources for law enforcement created serious gaps in the government’s ability to address human trafficking. ATU bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-trafficking laws and investigating cases throughout the country, although it only had staff in Abidjan.
The gendarmes under the Ministry of Defense were responsible for investigations in rural areas where ATU was not present. Funding levels remained severely inadequate. Resource limitations also constrained the Brigade Mondaine to Abidjan and a few regional precincts, rendering the two primary anti-trafficking units unable to cover the majority of the country. UCT had national jurisdiction over transnational organized crime, including a specialized human trafficking department. ATU had the mandate for child trafficking, UCT was responsible for transnational trafficking, and Brigade Mondaine covered sex trafficking; however, the units lacked coordination, and no unit had a clear responsibility for internal adult labor trafficking. Authorities outside Abidjan lacked training to identify and investigate trafficking. Some judges remained unaware of the 2016 law and continued to use the 2010 law and pimping statues to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties. The ATU trained three new police officers on identifying child trafficking victims. International organizations hosted two trainings for border police, prosecutors, judges, and other law enforcement officials on human trafficking; the government did not provide financial or in-kind support to these trainings.