The government maintained overall anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2019 Combating 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.
Following referral from an NGO, the government reported initiating investigations of five new suspected trafficking cases involving seven alleged traffickers, compared with zero investigations in the previous reporting period. The government reported one new prosecution, compared with six prosecutions in the previous reporting period, and one conviction for labor trafficking with a sentence of three years in prison, compared with four convictions in the previous reporting period. Due to the pandemic, some traffickers convicted previously were released from prison for medical reasons. The MSA identified four cases of alleged forced labor in Betou, in the north of the country, as part of the first child labor trafficking survey conducted in the region, which resulted in the arrest of one individual. 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 continued an investigation into a 2020 allegation of judicial corruption in a trafficking case. The government did not report initiating any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes. 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 pandemic-related court closures and restrictions on in-person meetings, which have since been lifted.
The government continued to include anti-trafficking training in the standard academy training for new police and immigration officers. The government regularly coordinated with source countries including Benin, the Central African Republic (CAR), the DRC, and Cameroon, to share law enforcement information. The government did not report extraditing any suspects during the reporting period.