The government increased law enforcement efforts. Congolese law criminalized all forms of sex trafficking and some forms of labor trafficking. However, the lack of a comprehensive anti-trafficking legal framework continued to contribute to officials’ lack of understanding of trafficking and their conflation of it with other crimes, such as illegal international adoption. Article 174(j) of the 2006 Sexual Violence Law criminalized child sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. Section 174(e) criminalized sexual slavery and prescribed penalties ranging from five to 20 years’ imprisonment as well as a fine of 200,000 Congolese franc ($120). These penalties were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. Article 174(c), which criminalized the “forced prostitution” of adults, prescribed penalties of three months to five years’ imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Articles 182 and 183 of the 2009 Child Protection Law 09/001 also criminalized the “procurement” of children and child sexual slavery and prescribed penalties of five to 20 years’ and 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment with a fine between 8,000 and one million Congolese franc ($4.85 to $610), respectively; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and commensurate, with respect to sex trafficking, with other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 187 criminalized child labor, including forced child labor, and prescribed penalties of one to three years’ imprisonment and fine between 100,000 and 200,000 Congolese franc ($61 to $120); these penalties were not sufficiently stringent. Article 326 of the 2002 Labor Code criminalized adult forced labor and prescribed penalties of up to six months’ imprisonment or a fine of 30,000 Congolese franc ($18); this penalty was not sufficiently stringent. Congolese law also criminalized the enlistment of persons younger than 18 years old into the armed forces and the police, which carried penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The government drafted and in December 2019 passed to the National Assembly an anti-trafficking law, which was scheduled for parliamentary debate and adoption in March 2020.
The judicial system in the DRC remained weak; however, the government increased investigations and prosecutions of cases involving not only recruitment of child soldiers but also sex trafficking and domestic servitude and maintained the number of convictions. The government did not report comprehensive data on trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. The government reported investigating 32 suspected traffickers, including 15 for sex trafficking, five for child soldier recruitment, four for forced labor, and eight for unknown types of exploitation, an increase compared with investigating 14 suspected traffickers for recruitment of child soldiers during the previous reporting period. The government prosecuted six alleged traffickers, four for the recruitment of child soldiers, one for sex trafficking, and one for domestic servitude, compared with prosecuting 14 traffickers for child soldier recruitment in 2018. The government convicted four traffickers for recruitment of child soldiers and sexual slavery, compared with convicting four traffickers for recruitment of child soldiers in 2018. Of these, the government convicted one former FARDC colonel to life imprisonment for child soldier recruitment, among other crimes. It also convicted a leader of an armed group and two militia members for crimes against humanity, including sexual slavery; the government sentenced the three men to 15 years’ to life imprisonment, and the judge found the government liable for failing to take measures to prevent the crimes and ordered the state to pay reparations to more than 300 victims of sexual slavery. The Agency for the Prevention and the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons (APLTP), the newly-established national coordinating body in April 2019, reported that 1,135 women were abducted by armed groups for sexual slavery in Ituri province and that local NGOs brought 142 cases before provincial courts; the government did not report any additional information about the status of these cases. The government did not make sufficient efforts to investigate the sex trafficking of women and children or forced labor of victims in artisanal mining, even though the scale of these crimes was significant. It continued to work towards implementation of a national data collection tool to report comprehensive data; but, it did not deploy the system during the reporting period.
Despite the government’s efforts to convict the former FARDC colonel, government corruption and complicity in trafficking crimes remained a significant concern. The government issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the armed group Nduma Defense of Congo-Renove (NDC-R) for recruitment of child soldiers, mass rape and other crimes. However, the NDC-R leader was not arrested during the reporting period, and observers reported the FARDC provided support to the NDC-R, including through FARDC commanders who allegedly protected the NDC-R leader who continued to operate freely in North Kivu. During the reporting period, there were credible allegations that a FARDC regiment forcibly recruited women and girls through abduction for sexual slavery in Kasai Province. Military prosecutors investigated the regiment and detained 10 soldiers under suspicion of rape and abduction but released the soldiers when the victims presented electoral identification cards showing them to be older than age 18. Experts reported the identification cards were fraudulent, and the government subsequently conducted age verification and found several girls were among those recruited. Military prosecutors announced their intent to bring formal charges against two of the soldiers, and the investigation was ongoing at the close of the reporting period. This is in comparison to two previous cases of children used —but not recruited —in support roles by the FARDC during the previous reporting period. In coordination with an international donor, the government trained 25 mine inspectors and controllers in north and south Kivu on inspections, child labor, and sex trafficking. In addition, the Ministry of Social Affairs signed an agreement with its counterpart ministry in the Republic of the Congo that improved data sharing and law enforcement cooperation on child trafficking cases. As a result, the Republic of the Congo extradited a Congolese man who killed a 16-year-old female trafficking victim from Kinshasa. In Kinshasa, the man was tried and convicted of murder, which carried a higher sentence than trafficking, and the judge sentenced him to life imprisonment.