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 crimes; 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 did not report any new trafficking investigations, compared with one in 2019, and prosecuted four alleged traffickers, compared with eight in 2019. Courts convicted four traffickers during the reporting period, compared with six in 2019. Courts sentenced one trafficker to three months’ imprisonment and a $100 fine, one to 12 months’ imprisonment and a $250 fine, one to seven years’ imprisonment and seven years’ probation, and one to 10 years’ imprisonment (served only on the weekends during the 10 years) and a $5,000 fine. Lenient sentences of a year or less or those that were not served on consecutive days created potential safety problems for trafficking victims and weakened deterrence. The government continued to prosecute a child sex trafficking case involving one child victim and three alleged traffickers during the reporting period. In the previous reporting period, the acting attorney general of Yap was murdered, and some media reports stated the motive, which remained unclear, may have been related to her prosecution work, including on human trafficking. The government charged two perpetrators with 19 counts ranging from murder and manslaughter to firearms possession; the trial was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Law enforcement officials cooperated with a foreign government on an ongoing international trafficking case.
During a prior reporting period, the Department of Justice (DOJ) assigned a full-time assistant attorney general to prosecute all human trafficking cases and hired four investigators who specialized in human trafficking. The placement of the investigators changed during the reporting period; one was placed at the national government, one in Chuuk, one in Pohnpei, and one in Kosrae compared to two in Chuuk and two in Kosrae in prior reporting periods. In September 2020, the government funded its second annual three-day anti-trafficking conference that included victim-centered approach training for law enforcement officials and service providers from the national and Pohnpei State governments; FSM and foreign government officials, international organizations, and civil society stakeholders conducted the training. Unlike in prior years, the government did not report providing DOJ with funding for investigations and awareness activities. DOJ continued to provide state and national level anti-trafficking training for law enforcement, judges, lawyers, health providers, faith-based organizations, and youth and women’s groups. Despite these trainings, judges overall continued to lack specialized training and, consequently, some judges lacked sensitivity to trafficking issues and the trauma victims experienced at times, resulting in judges sentencing traffickers to penalties that were disproportionately low to the severity of the crime. The government’s police academy training for new cadets included 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. Police did not frequently investigate or charge traffickers who facilitate rather than impose exploitation, such as hotel owners, taxi drivers, and family members. The insular nature of the small island communities at times protected traffickers and impeded investigations. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking crimes.