The government decreased law enforcement efforts. The national anti-trafficking law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $5,000-$25,000, or both for crimes involving adult victims, and up to 30 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $5,000-$50,000, or both for crimes involving child victims. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regards to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Each of Micronesia’s four states had its own laws that criminalized trafficking crimes; however, Pohnpei and Chuuk States did not explicitly prohibit adult sex trafficking. Cases prosecuted at the state level may be heard subsequently at the national level, under the national anti-trafficking law, depending on which court hears a case.
The government continued one sex trafficking investigation, compared with investigating seven sex trafficking cases in the previous reporting period, including some initiated in prior years. Authorities did not initiate prosecution of any traffickers, compared with prosecuting six alleged sex traffickers in the previous reporting period, including some initiated in prior years. Authorities closed one of the prosecutions due to insufficient evidence and two due to an expired statute of limitations; two prosecutions of one sex trafficker remained ongoing, and another case remained under appeal. The government did not convict any traffickers, compared with convicting nine sex traffickers during the previous reporting period. The government reported pandemic-related delays in court processing resulted in cases initiated in prior years being incorrectly included in the previous reporting period’s law enforcement data. The government did not report on sentences handed down in the Pohnpei State court to four traffickers convicted in the previous reporting period. In January 2023, Yap State court convicted two defendants for the October 2019 murder of the acting Attorney General of Yap; media reported the murder had been related to her prosecution work, including on human trafficking. The national government and Pohnpei State government continued prosecutions against a former government official charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking under the Pohnpei State and national anti-trafficking laws, as well as other crimes under other laws, in three separate cases. The government did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes.
The FSM Anti-Human Trafficking Division under the FSM Department of Justice was the lead agency for national trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The government had three dedicated investigators who specialized in human trafficking: one in Chuuk, one in Pohnpei, and one in Kosrae. The national government provided anti-trafficking training to its judges, immigration, customs, and quarantine officials, and, in partnership with an international organization, trained new cadets in the national and all four state governments’ police academies on victim identification and assistance; the government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to state level judges. Observers stated national and state level police lacked sufficient training on trafficking crimes, to include labor trafficking, and investigative techniques. Widespread observance of customary justice practices; social stigmatization; lack of sufficient resources and funding; and law enforcement officials’ limited understanding of trafficking, including trafficking indicators and investigative techniques, hindered effective law enforcement activity. Police did not investigate or charge those who abetted trafficking crimes, such as hotel owners, taxi drivers, and family members. Government officials reported the lack of personnel, resources, and funding impaired anti-trafficking monitoring efforts of labor or sex trafficking on vessels in Micronesian waters. The insular nature of the small island communities protected traffickers and impeded investigations, and the government reported pandemic restrictions further hindered access to outer islands to conduct investigations. The government reported courts remained open but operated in a limited capacity during most of the reporting period, which may have adversely affected the government’s ability to prosecute trafficking crimes. The government did not report cooperating with foreign counterparts on any trafficking-related law enforcement activities.