The government slightly 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) ($3,153) for offenses involving a victim 16 years of age or older, and up to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 SRD ($3,153) 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 15 investigations, two for sex trafficking, two for labor trafficking, and 11 for unspecified forms of trafficking, compared with eight investigations (six for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking) of 19 individuals in 2021, and six investigations (four for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking) in 2020. The government prosecuted 16 suspected traffickers (five for sex trafficking, one for labor trafficking, and 10 for lesser charges), compared with prosecuting 17 suspected traffickers in 2021 and one alleged sex trafficker in 2020. Authorities released eight alleged traffickers while their trials were pending; the country did not have a bail system. Courts convicted three individuals under the trafficking law and ten individuals including two police officers under other laws, compared with no convictions in 2021 or 2020, and 18 in 2019. Courts sentenced three traffickers (two Surinamese men for sex trafficking and one People’s Republic of China (PRC) national man for labor trafficking) to sentences of four to six years’ imprisonment. The two police officers each received sentences of twelve months’ imprisonment and two years’ probation. Courts also acquitted one police officer for complicity in child sex trafficking. The police officers who committed crimes while on duty were fired. In one case prosecuted for sex trafficking, a judge found the PRC national female suspect guilty of the lesser non-trafficking crimes of violating the Firearms Code and drug possession, and sentenced her to time served. The judge ruled the prosecution had not proven trafficking took place because the victims knew they were entering into contracts with the suspect to work in commercial sex and willingly handed their paperwork to the suspect. Officials noted the victims did not have legal assistance during the trial, which may have contributed to the outcome.
The police’s eleven-officer Trafficking in Persons Unit (TIP Unit) exclusively handled human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases. The TIP Unit was solely responsible for and cooperated on trafficking investigations with the Military Police’s immigration office, the Alien Affairs Office, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Police Youth Affairs Department. The TIP Unit referred trafficking investigations to the Trafficking in Persons Desk (TIP Desk) at the Prosecutors’ Office, whose three members specialized in trafficking cases but were not solely dedicated to trafficking prosecutions. Observers and officials noted the TIP Unit and TIP Desk collaborated well. The Court of Justice ruled on trafficking cases brought by the Prosecutors’ Office, but its members did not have a specialization in trafficking and also decided non-trafficking cases. However, the Prosecutors’ Office noted that in practice one judge handled all trafficking cases and inconsistently convicted traffickers according to the definition of trafficking under the law. Existing agency budgets paid for these ongoing anti-trafficking efforts, without a specific or additional allocation. The TIP Unit and the TIP Desk lacked sufficient funding and resources and some officers required further training on investigative techniques and victim identification. Although the TIP Unit was responsible for anti-trafficking efforts across the country, it had to rely on local police units in the interior of the country, which limited its efficacy in those regions. The TIP Unit conducted inspections of mining areas in the interior; nightclubs, which reopened following the pandemic; and places where vulnerable migrants lived, in conjunction with the Foreign National Police. Although the government lifted pandemic restrictions in March 2022, government personnel shortages continued due to sporadic COVID-19 infections. The TIP Unit reported difficulties inspecting private homes where commercial sex took place, along with commercial sex advertised through social media.
The government investigated potential trafficking crimes as part of an international operation against criminal migrant smuggling networks. The government signed bilateral and regional law enforcement agreements with France (French Guiana), Brazil, and Guyana that included joint efforts to combat trafficking. In January 2023, the TIP Unit trained neighborhood police managers directly responsible for community policing on victim identification, the link between trafficking and criminal organizations, and the dismantling of criminal organizations. The TIP Unit also trained new police cadets on definitions and identification of human trafficking and the links between human trafficking and other crimes.