The government maintained prosecution efforts but continued not to adequately investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes involving forced labor and also did not cooperate with the government of Haiti on any trafficking cases, despite the scale of trafficking involving Haitian nationals in the country. Dominican law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The 2003 Law on Human Smuggling and Trafficking (Law 137-03) criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines. Inconsistent with international law, the law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking crime and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. Article 25 of the Child Protection Code of 2003 criminalized the offering, delivering, or accepting, without regard to means used, anyone younger than 18 years of age for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labor, or any other purpose that demeaned the individual, for remuneration or any other consideration, and prescribed a penalty of 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine. All these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During a previous reporting period, the government drafted legislation to remove the provision requiring a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking crime; the legislation remained pending at the end of the reporting period.
The government initiated 29 trafficking investigations involving 71 people (18 cases of 48 people for sex trafficking, eight cases of 19 people for labor trafficking, and three cases of four people for unspecified forms of exploitation), compared with initiating 53 trafficking investigations involving 76 people (47 cases of 69 people for sex trafficking and six cases of seven people for labor trafficking) in 2021. The government continued investigations in seven cases involving 28 people (five cases of 24 people for sex trafficking and two cases of four people for labor trafficking). The government initiated prosecution of 36 alleged traffickers (25 for sex trafficking, 10 for labor trafficking, and one for unspecified forms of exploitation), compared with prosecuting 46 alleged traffickers (41 for sex trafficking and five for labor trafficking) in 2021. The government continued prosecution of 39 suspects (35 for sex trafficking and four for labor trafficking) initiated in previous reporting periods. The government prosecuted 74 suspected traffickers under the anti-trafficking law and one individual under other laws, compared with prosecuting 92 suspected traffickers under the anti-trafficking law and six people under other laws in 2021. Courts convicted 23 traffickers (12 for sex trafficking under the anti-trafficking law and 11 for pandering under the penal code), compared with 10 traffickers (six for sex trafficking under the trafficking law and four for pandering and procuring under the penal code) in 2021. Courts acquitted one defendant. The sentences for the convicted sex traffickers ranged from four to 20 years’ imprisonment with fines. Those convicted of pandering received sentences from two to five years’ imprisonment and fines. The government reported it enforced the anti-trafficking law equitably; however, an international organization reported the government sometimes chose not to pursue cases when victims were migrants or undocumented Haitian women. NGOs reported the justice system was not equally accessible for underserved populations – in particular undocumented Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent – who limited their movements and activities due to a lack of identity documents and persistent threat of detention and deportation.
The Specialized Prosecutor’s Office against the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons (PETT) and the National Police Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU) were the principal law enforcement bodies pursuing trafficking cases, with police units in Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, San Cristóbal, Puerto Plata, and Boca Chica. The PETT had established liaisons in each of the 35 district attorney’s offices nationwide. NGOs reported interagency coordination on trafficking cases had improved, but funding and capacity, especially in the investigation and conduct of large-scale anti-trafficking operations, remained insufficient. An NGO reported authorities almost exclusively dedicated their anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts to addressing urban sex trafficking and did not make significant efforts or provide funding to combat rural labor trafficking. NGOs reported Dominican authorities lacked adequate training and technology to pursue cases and sometimes favored the rights of the defendant over those of the victim. Authorities created a joint PETT-ATU Cyber-Trafficking Unit and a Unit for Detection of Forced and Child Labor, but the two new sections did not initiate operations, pending equipment and training from a foreign donor. The National Police, in cooperation with an NGO, developed an Electronic Investigation Module that could be used for trafficking cases; the module was pending implementation at the end of the reporting period. An NGO reported the National Police largely prioritized internal trafficking cases because the police lacked the capacity and technological tools to routinely connect with regional source or destination countries, including Haiti.
Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant and increasing concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. ATU officers reportedly alerted traffickers of impending law enforcement actions. The government investigated two police officers for sex trafficking. The government did not report the status of a 2017 sex trafficking case with police officers and members of the military among the suspects. The government reported it vetted and supervised security personnel providing services in border areas; it also increased salaries and training to officers. However, NGOs reported government officials and security forces in border areas likely facilitated human trafficking through active participation and weak enforcement. The government passed an Asset Forfeiture Law to allow confiscation of assets acquired through, or used in, a range of illicit activities including trafficking. The government did not have specialized trafficking courts.
The government cooperated with 10 international partners on 11 trafficking investigations, compared with cooperating with four foreign governments on trafficking investigations in the previous reporting period. However, authorities did not report cooperating with the government of Haiti on any trafficking cases, despite the suspected scale of trafficking involving Haitian nationals in the country. The government trained personnel, including the Specialized Corps of Land Border Security; the Ministry of Defense; judges, judicial investigators, National and Tourism Police, and prosecutors and support attorneys; the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI); local governments; and community associations on investigating trafficking crimes, victim identification and referral, and trafficking prevention.