The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2004 Law on the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons criminalized some forms of sex trafficking and all forms of labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least 50 million CFA francs ($86,490) if the offense involved an adult victim; an additional five years would be added to the principal penalty for offenses involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, Equatorial Guinea’s law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore it did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. Additionally, the law defined trafficking broadly to include illegal adoption without the purpose of exploitation. The government drafted new penal code articles in 2019 with increased victim protection requirements; however, parliament had not approved the articles at the end of the reporting period.
The government did not maintain comprehensive law enforcement statistics. Officials reported arresting and—for the first time since 2010—initiating prosecutions against two suspected traffickers in late 2019 in a case involving a child from a neighboring country who may have been subjected to human trafficking as defined in international law. However, authorities reported trying the case as illegal adoption due to a lack of training among judicial officials on trafficking crimes and statutes. Officials arrested one suspected trafficker in the previous reporting period, although the government deported the suspect without referring the case for prosecution, a common practice that has undermined holding traffickers accountable. The government has yet to convict a trafficker under its 2004 trafficking law. Judicial officials noted a lack of training resulted in authorities prosecuting and convicting potential trafficking cases under related statutes, such as kidnapping, illegal adoption, or physical abuse. The government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses, although general corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year.
For the first time in two years, the government provided anti-trafficking training to its officials. The government funded a nationwide anti-trafficking training program for more than 700 government workers and civil society actors during the reporting period to address a widespread lack of knowledge of trafficking among officials and the general population. The training program—delivered by government officials and international organization partners—included front-line officers from the National Police, Gendarmerie, and military as well as governors, regional government representatives, mayors, civil society, and community leaders.