The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. In June 2019, the government enacted the 2019 Combating Trafficking in Persons Law, which criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The related provisions in Congolese criminal law prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as kidnapping.
The government initiated the investigation of six traffickers in 2019, the same number as in the prior year. The government reported prosecuting six individuals for labor trafficking under the anti-trafficking law and convicting zero suspected traffickers in 2019, compared with four prosecutions and zero convictions in 2018. An NGO reported conducting investigations, in coordination with local law enforcement officers, into 15 additional trafficking cases during the reporting year; of these, the NGO repatriated some victims and reunified others with their families or community members and the government arrested eight potential traffickers. Traffickers active in the country frequently operated from elsewhere in West Africa, making Congolese prosecution difficult. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government investigated all reports of official complicity from prior years. Low-level corruption and limited intragovernmental coordination constrained the government’s ability to investigate, prosecute, and convict suspected traffickers, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. The court system was dysfunctional and many criminal cases continued to languish due to significant backlogs in the high court as a result of irregular court sessions, lack of centralized record keeping, and limited legal statistics. The government did not report the outcomes of any languishing cases, making it unclear if older cases were dismissed.
The government continued to include anti-trafficking training in the standard academy training for new police and immigration officers. In September 2019, the government hosted and provided in-kind support for international law enforcement experts who trained 31 officials from the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Defense on interview techniques in trafficking cases. In October 2019, the government hosted and provided in-kind support for an international organization that trained 12 officials from the Ministries of Social Affairs, Justice, Interior, and Foreign Affairs on the implementation of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. The government regularly coordinated with source countries including Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Gabon, and Cameroon to share law enforcement information. As a result of this regional cooperation, the government extradited an alleged trafficker to Gabon during the reporting period leading to his eventual prosecution. The government facilitated bilateral talks with the DRC and drafted bilateral recommendations to provide a framework for their cooperation on the issue.