The government modestly increased law enforcement efforts. Public Law 12/2011 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In February 2019, the government drafted amendments to the Code of Child Protection in an effort to harmonize it with international laws on human trafficking, but the legislature had not yet adopted the amendments by the end of the reporting period.
The government investigated 23 potential trafficking cases. Of these, it investigated three cases of forced child begging, with two of these cases referred to the Public Ministry for prosecution; prosecutions were not yet formally initiated at the end of the reporting period. Of the 23 potential cases, it investigated 20 potential child trafficking cases from 2017 as domestic violence with child labor as an aggravated circumstance. The Public Ministry reported one prosecution (forced child begging) for human trafficking during the reporting period, its first under the anti-trafficking law. The government has never convicted a trafficker under the anti-trafficking law. This compared to investigating 22 cases of child trafficking in 2017, although none of these led to prosecution or convictions, and zero investigations, prosecutions, or convictions in 2016. During the reporting period, the government confirmed that there was one case of complicity involving members of parliament and a minor held captive by a local government authority. After the case was reported to the police and the Institute for Woman and Children (IMC), the Public Ministry archived the case and released the perpetrators from police custody with no charges. Guinea-Bissau’s judicial system lacked sufficient human and physical capital to function effectively, and corruption remained pervasive.
The Judicial Police had a specialized unit that investigated trafficking cases; however, it did not have nationwide coverage or a dedicated budget for investigations. The police, National Guard, judiciary, and prosecutors all suffered from a chronic lack of funding which hindered their efforts to combat human trafficking. However, the government acquired three new vehicles for the Judicial Police, which could be used for trafficking investigations during the reporting period. The Judicial Police were largely absent outside the capital. Although initially reported in 2017, there was no progress made in opening a second Judicial Police office in the Bijagos; but the Police did plan to open an additional office in Catió, in southern Guinea-Bissau. The National Guard and local police in rural areas had neither the training nor the capacity to investigate trafficking crimes and did not always refer such cases to the Judicial Police, which impeded investigations into forced child begging in eastern regions and child sex trafficking in the Bijagos. In addition, police and judges often resolved intra-familial labor and abuse cases—which could include forced child labor and child sex trafficking by family members—through non-judicial means or tried them as domestic violence cases. When parents broke such agreements and police transferred the cases to court, officials noted community leaders often pressured courts to drop the cases. Nine judicial police officers received training on trafficking; the government provided technical assistance and trainers for these sessions. However, some law enforcement and judicial officials remained unaware of the 2011 anti-trafficking law. In March 2019, an international organization provided an expert on human trafficking to Guinea-Bissau, who conducted training on anti-trafficking laws and procedures for police and government officials; the government provided the facilities for the training. Another international organization provided training to police, judges, and other civil society actors; the government provided trainers for the sessions from the IMC and magistrates from the Public Ministry.