The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Law No. 2016-111 on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 10 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($9,450-$18,900) for adult trafficking, and 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 50 million FCFA ($18,900-$94,520) for child trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2010 Child Trafficking and Child Labor Law remained the primary law used to prosecute child trafficking, and it criminalized child sex trafficking and labor trafficking with 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 20 million FCFA ($9,450-$37,810). The government used penal code provisions on illegal mining and pimping to prosecute trafficking cases during the reporting period. The penal code prescribed penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million to 10 million FCFA ($1,890-$18,900) for pimping and penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50 million to 100 million FCFA ($94,520-$189,040) for illegal mining. These penalties were significantly lower than those prescribed under the trafficking law.
The government diverted law enforcement from anti-trafficking activities to enforce pandemic mitigation measures and travel restrictions, and courts operated at a reduced capacity. Despite the pandemic’s impact, the government investigated at least 18 cases, prosecuted 25 alleged traffickers, and convicted 12 traffickers under trafficking laws and penal code provisions on illegal mining and pimping during the reporting period. This compared to 191 investigations, prosecution of 35 alleged traffickers, and conviction of 12 traffickers in the previous reporting period. Judges sentenced 10 defendants to prison sentences ranging from six months to 10 years with fines ranging from 100,000 FCFA ($189) to 10 million FCFA ($18,900). Two convicted traffickers received no prison sentence or a fully suspended sentence. Some judges and prosecutors remained unaware of the 2016 law and continued to use the 2010 law and illegal mining and pimping statutes to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties. The court convicted six out of 12 traffickers using pimping statutes during the reporting period. The 2016 anti-trafficking law and related penal code provisions also criminalized the knowing solicitation and patronization of a sex trafficking victim; the government reported three prosecutions and three convictions of such cases during the reporting period, compared to prosecuting 15 such cases and obtaining convictions in 11 cases during the previous reporting period. The government did not report continuing any prosecutions from the previous reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, official corruption and complicity in trafficking crimes remained concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Observers alleged police on the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso facilitated child trafficking during the reporting period, taking bribes at checkpoints along bus routes from non-Ivoirian passengers, including potential child forced labor victims en route to exploitation on cocoa plantations. As detailed in a previous reporting period, five gendarmes and two military firefighters allegedly abducted a trafficking victim from an NGO shelter in 2018; a military tribunal sentenced four of the gendarmes and military firefighters to 50 days in military jail in August 2019 as an administrative sanction for unbecoming conduct. A subsequent prosecutions of four of the gendarmes and one of the military firefighters for kidnapping of a minor, forced confinement, and attempted rape was pending before a military judge at the end of the reporting period.
Limited funding and resources for law enforcement created serious gaps in the government’s ability to address human trafficking. The Sub-Directorate in the Fight against Trafficking and Child Labor (SDLTEDJ, the Sub-Directorate, or anti-trafficking unit) bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-trafficking laws and investigating cases throughout the country, although it only had staff in Abidjan. In June 2020, the government established six special police units under the Sub-Directorate across the country to investigate child labor and child trafficking cases; each unit had 10-20 officers with two motorcycles, a four-wheel drive vehicle, computers, and office materials. The units received specialized training in Abidjan before deploying to six locations where child trafficking and child labor were prevalent. The new units successfully conducted several anti-trafficking operations, including one in February 2021 that identified 19 potential child trafficking victims. The gendarmes under the Ministry of Defense were responsible for investigations in rural areas where the Sub-Directorate was not present. Funding levels for law enforcement activities remained severely inadequate. Resource limitations also constrained the Brigade Mondaine—the unit responsible for investigating prostitution and sex trafficking—to Abidjan and a few regional precincts. The Transnational Organized Crime Unit (UCT) had national jurisdiction over transnational organized crime, including a specialized human trafficking department. The Sub-Directorate was responsible for child trafficking, UCT for transnational trafficking, and Brigade Mondaine for sex trafficking; however, the units lacked coordination, and no unit had a clear responsibility for internal adult labor trafficking. Authorities outside Abidjan lacked training to identify and investigate trafficking.
The government conducted trainings for 176 law enforcement and judicial officials, an increase from 129 officials trained during the previous reporting period. In coordination with a foreign donor and international organization, the government organized three training sessions for 108 judges, magistrates, prosecutors, police, and ministry officials on the 2016 anti-trafficking law, victim identification and protection, investigative techniques, and cross-agency collaboration. The government organized an additional three trainings for 68 officials from the UCT, Sub-Directorate, Brigade Mondaine, and Airport Anti-Trafficking Cell (CAAT) in coordination with a foreign donor; topics included national and international anti-trafficking legal frameworks, distinctions between human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and investigative and prosecutorial procedures. The government continued to meet virtually with Tunisian authorities to exchange information on victim support and law enforcement networks.