The government maintained 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 one alleged trafficking case, compared with nine in 2018, and prosecuting eight alleged traffickers, compared with seven in 2018. Courts convicted six traffickers during the reporting period, the same as in 2018. A sex trafficking case involving one victim and five alleged traffickers remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period; in March 2020, three of the traffickers were convicted of human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of a minor while charges remained ongoing for the other two alleged traffickers. The acting Attorney General of Yap was murdered, and some media reports stated the motivation behind the action may have been related to her work against human trafficking. Two perpetrators were arrested and were awaiting trial at the end of the reporting period.
During a previous 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; these positions remained unchanged at the end of the reporting period. In July 2019, the government funded a three-day anti-trafficking and victim centered approach training for law enforcement officials; an international government agency conducted the training. Unlike in previous years, the government did not report providing DOJ with funding 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. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.