The government increased law enforcement efforts. The national anti-trafficking law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $5,000-$25,000, or both for offenses involving adult victims, and up to 30 years’ imprisonment, a fine of between $5,000-$50,000, or both for offenses involving child victims. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regards to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Each of Micronesia’s four states had its own laws that criminalized trafficking offenses; however, Pohnpei and Chuuk States did not explicitly prohibit adult sex trafficking. Cases prosecuted at the state level may be heard subsequently at the national level, under national anti trafficking law, depending on which court hears a case.
The government reported investigating nine alleged trafficking cases, compared with eight in 2017, and prosecuting seven alleged traffickers, compared with two in 2017. Courts convicted six traffickers during the reporting period, an increase compared with two traffickers convicted in 2017. The Chuuk State court sentenced three traffickers for child sex trafficking to nine years’ imprisonment and ordered each offender to pay $1,000 in restitution to the victim. In March 2019, a Supreme Court judge sentenced the mother and stepfather of a child sex trafficking victim to seven years and eight months’ imprisonment and ordered each to pay the victim $40,000 in restitution. The combined $80,000 in restitution imposed by the court on the offenders was one of the largest restitution judgments in the history of the court. Also in March 2019, the Pohnpei State court sentenced a cab driver who used his taxi to recruit, transport, and deliver girls to have sex with sailors on shore leave and other men between 2015 and 2017 to 10 years’ imprisonment and ordered him to pay a total of $14,000 restitution to two identified victims. The court allowed the offender to be released from prison at certain hours on Sunday to attend church and visit his children during the duration of his incarceration.
During the reporting period, the Department of Justice (DOJ) assigned a full-time assistant attorney general to prosecute all human trafficking cases and hired four investigators, two in Chuuk and two in Kosrae, who specialize in human trafficking. In 2018, the government provided DOJ with $100,000 for investigation and awareness programs; DOJ continued to provide training for law enforcement, judges, lawyers, health providers, faith-based organizations, and youth and women’s groups at the state and national level. Despite these trainings, judges lacked specialized training and consequently some judges lacked sensitivity to trafficking issues and the trauma victims experienced. In previous years, the absence of judicial training and Micronesian law, which allowed for penalties of fines in lieu of imprisonment, regularly permitted judges to apply penalties that were disproportionately low to the severity of the crimes. The government’s police academy training for new cadets included a mandatory training on investigating trafficking cases and how to interview potential victims. Observers stated police still required additional training on sex trafficking and sophisticated investigation techniques. The insular nature of the small island communities at times protected traffickers and impeded investigations. Police did not frequently investigate or charge traffickers whose role was to facilitate rather than impose exploitation, such as hotel owners, taxi drivers, and family members. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.