The government maintained its law enforcement efforts. The penal code, together with the Immigration Act, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Article 143 of the penal code criminalized child sex trafficking under its “child commercial sexual exploitation” provision and prescribed penalties of up to 15 or 20 years’ imprisonment, based on the child’s age. Article 145 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking when the offense occurred within the country. Article 145(2) applied to trafficking offenses involving an element of force, fraud, or coercion; it prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving adult victims and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving child victims. Article 145(3) prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for offenses that did not involve an element of force, fraud, or coercion. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The Immigration Act criminalized other forms of trafficking, including crimes in which the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of the trafficking victim occurred outside Solomon Islands. The Immigration Act prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 45,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($5,820), or both for the trafficking of adults; it prescribed a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 90,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($11,640), or both for the trafficking of children. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, but with respect to sex trafficking, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, they were not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses. Authorities continued to charge some trafficking cases under criminal statutes carrying lesser penalties. In coordination with a regional body, the government continued to review the Immigration Act in an effort to identify gaps in trafficking-specific provisions, among others. The government allocated 920,000 Solomon Islands dollars ($118,960) to support the development of a comprehensive trafficking in persons statute and to accede to the UNTOC and its supplementary Protocols.
The government reported opening investigations of two potential trafficking cases involving two alleged perpetrators and four potential victims during the reporting period, compared with two investigations in 2019. Similar to the previous reporting period, the government did not report initiating any new prosecutions. Authorities concluded two investigations initiated in the previous reporting period. The government did not advance the cases due to an absence of evidence and testimony, and it deported the alleged perpetrators. In addition, authorities did not advance three potential forced labor cases initiated in a prior reporting period involving an unspecified number of suspects and potential victims. The government did not report any convictions during the reporting period, a decrease from one conviction in 2019.
In partnership with an international organization, the Department of Immigration (DOI) conducted joint training for an unspecified number of law enforcement and other anti-trafficking stakeholders on definitions, investigations, and psycho-social care for victims. The government reported conducting training focused on trafficking law enforcement, investigation, prosecution, victim identification, and protection to law enforcement officers, service providers, public solicitors, and prosecutors, and it shared plans to provide similar training to judicial officials. Geographic challenges, insufficient funding of enforcement agencies, lack of technical expertise, and a lack of awareness of the crime and of the relevant laws among front-line officers, particularly in remote areas of the country, adversely affected the government’s ability to respond effectively to trafficking cases. In addition, observers ascribed a higher likelihood of acquittals and dismissals of such cases to backlogs in court, incomplete investigations, insufficient evidence or lack of testimony, and safety concerns among victims and their families. Traditional justice practices involving retribution or informal restitution arrangements between victims’ families and their traffickers, continued to supplant formal law enforcement efforts and further complicated victims’ access to justice. Authorities did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any government officials for complicity in trafficking offenses.