Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guyana must vigorously prosecute trafficking in persons – US

Guyana must vigorously prosecute trafficking in persons – US

Posted By Stabroek staff On June 17, 2009 @ 5:32 am In Local News | 27 Comments

Guyana remains on the Tier 2 Watch List compiled by the US State Department in its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for 2009 and has been urged to vigorously prosecute offenders.

According to the report released yesterday, “Guyana is a source country for men, women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.” It said that “Guyanese trafficking victims have been identified within the country, as well as in Barbados, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.” “The majority of victims are trafficked internally for sexual and labour exploitation in the more heavily populated coastal areas and in the remote areas of the
country’s interior.”

The report acknowledged that Amerindian teenagers and women in interior regions as forming the predominant group of persons that were trafficked.

The Guyana government has repeatedly denied that TIP is a major problem here.

The report urges that Guyana vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offences, and seek convictions and punishment of trafficking offenders. Further, it recommended a proactive measure of identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as women and children in prostitutions. It was also recommended that victims be protected throughout the process of criminal investigations and prosecutions assign more judges and court personnel to handle trafficking cases in the country’s interior regions, and expand anti-trafficking training for police and magistrates.

The report noted that “the government had made negligible law-enforcement progress against human trafficking over the last year. It, however, noted the provisions of the Combating Trafficking of Persons Act of 2005. The report said that during the past year, trafficking investigations increased from six in 2007 to eight.
According to the document, “legal cases against alleged trafficking offenders usually did not progress through the trial phase, as charges against most suspects are dropped prior or during the prosecution.

“The Government of Guyana made significant efforts to assist victims during the reporting period”, the report said. Further, “while the government did not operate shelters for trafficking victims, but doubled its funding to an NGO that provided shelter, counseling and medical assistance to victims of domestic violence; the shelter was also accessible to victims of trafficking, though no trafficking victims sought assistance from the shelter in 2008.”

According to the report, “NGO’s working directly with trafficking victims report that although the government offers a number of useful services to victims, the system by which it provides these services does not function as effectively as it should.” While it was acknowledged in the report that the government of Guyana did several good initiatives to support victims, the report said that “the government did not support victim services outside the capital, and stated that the services remained “inadequate”.

The report noted “In 2008, magistrates continued to dismiss charges in trafficking cases, usually citing a lack of evidence or

failure of the witness to appear for testimony. In October 2008, a judge dismissed the charges against a woman

arrested in September 2006 for subjecting a 15-year old girl to commercial sexual exploitation, claiming
the police `had not done proper investigations’ in the intervening two years. Judicial proceedings are regularly
delayed by shortages of trained court personnel and magistrates, postponements, and the slowness of the
Guyanese police in preparing cases for trial.”

The report acknowledged that the government did undertake some prevention efforts during the period in question. These efforts included “some educational and awareness-raising activities on trafficking.” The government trained 100 people designated as community “focal points” on identifying and reporting potential trafficking cases in eight administrative regions.
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