The government increased overall anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2019 Combatting Trafficking in Persons Law 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.
For the first time since 2017, the government convicted traffickers for exploiting victims in forced labor. Officials prosecuted six traffickers and courts sentenced four of those individuals to 10 years imprisonment under Article 2 of the 2019 trafficking law. While the government did not report investigating any new cases, observers noted anecdotal evidence that authorities opened new trafficking cases during the reporting period. The government investigated and prosecuted six traffickers in 2019. An NGO reported conducting investigations, in coordination with local law enforcement officers, into 24 additional trafficking cases during the reporting year; this is compared to 15 in 2019. Illicit recruiters frequently operated from other West African countries, and Congolese officials did not report taking significant actions to hold domestic criminals accountable for exploiting victims within the country. Authorities reported opening an investigation into an allegation of judicial corruption in a trafficking case; the case remained open at the end of the reporting period.
Low-level corruption and limited intragovernmental coordination constrained officials’ ability to investigate, prosecute, and convict suspected traffickers, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. The court system remained 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, limited legal statistics, and in 2020, court closures related to COVID-19 restrictions on in-person meetings.
The government continued to include anti-trafficking training in the standard academy training for new police and immigration officers. In December, the Ministry of Social Affairs provided training on the country’s anti-trafficking framework for an unknown number of officials in six districts. The government regularly coordinated with source countries including Benin, DRC, Gabon, and Cameroon to share law enforcement information. The government did not report extraditing any suspects during the reporting period, compared with one during the previous reporting period.