The government increased prosecution efforts. Article 334 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to nine years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Surinamese dollars (SRD) ($5,120) for offenses involving a victim 16 years of age or older, and up to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 SRD ($5,120) for those involving a victim younger than the age of 16. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Police initiated eight investigations (six for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking), of 19 individuals, compared with six investigations (four for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking) in 2020, eight investigations in 2019, and three in 2018. Police referred six cases and 17 defendants for prosecution, compared with one sex trafficking prosecution in 2020 that authorities later dropped due to insufficient evidence after the victim chose not to cooperate with the prosecution. Two cases involving four defendants were closed due to lack of evidence. The government prosecuted seven individuals in five of the cases under the trafficking law and eight individuals in the sixth case under other laws. The prosecutions under the trafficking law were the first since 2017. Authorities prosecuted three police officers for suspected complicity in child sex trafficking. Authorities released eight alleged traffickers on bail while their trials were pending. In the previous reporting period, authorities prosecuted as other crimes two cases initially investigated for trafficking. The government reported one ongoing investigation against an offender still at large from the previous reporting period. In addition to the cases above, the TIP Unit investigated several other potential trafficking crimes involving Haitian migrants. The government did not convict any traffickers in 2021 or 2020, compared to 18 in 2019 and seven in 2018.
The TIP Unit was the sole agency responsible for the investigation of sex trafficking, forced labor, and migrant smuggling cases throughout the country. During the reporting period, the government appointed a new head and additional members of the TIP Unit. The TIP Unit reestablished interagency cooperation on trafficking investigations with the Military Police’s immigration office, the Alien Affairs Office, and the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Police Youth Affairs Department also investigated any case involving persons younger than 18; the two units collaborated closely. The TIP Unit referred trafficking investigations to prosecutors trained in handling such cases. The anti-trafficking funding for these bodies was part of their overall budgets. The TIP Unit lacked sufficient funding and resources and some officers required further training on investigative techniques and victim identification. The TIP Unit adopted a strategic plan. As a result of the pandemic, the Maritime Authority, the military, the maritime police, and the Coast Guard increased inspections of vessels entering the country, to identify suspicious activities, including trafficking. In 2022, the TIP Unit began weekly patrols with the Maritime Police.
The pandemic significantly impacted the government’s efforts to coordinate, execute, and monitor its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts for the second year. Numerous police officers including officers in the TIP Unit tested positive for the COVID-19 virus or had to quarantine, and several police stations closed due to lack of staff. The court system also shut down on several occasions, with some operations moving to digital platforms due to the pandemic; a large backlog of cases, including trafficking cases, continued despite the return to more normal operations by the end of the reporting period.
The government screened for trafficking crimes as part of an international operation that carried out targeted, coordinated enforcement actions against criminal migrant smuggling networks. The government signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with Brazil in January to improve cooperation against different transnational crime threats, including human trafficking. The TIP Unit collaborated with the Cuban embassy on a case involving Cuban nationals. The government also continued to collaborate on trafficking cases with neighboring Guyana and French Guiana. The government provided multiple in-person and online refresher courses on anti-trafficking enforcement, victim identification, and victim handling for members of the police, including the TIP Unit, and members of the Prosecutors’ Office. Other officials, including immigration officials and those from Alien Affairs and Social Affairs, did not receive trafficking training.