Prosecution of human trafficking in Cameroon (TIP 2023)

Foto di jorono da Pixabay

The government made marginal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.  The 2011 anti-trafficking law criminalized some forms of sex trafficking and all forms of labor trafficking.  Inconsistent with international law, Cameroon’s legal framework continued to require 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.  The law prescribed penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 1 million Central African francs (CFA) ($81 to $1,630), which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to some forms of sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.  If the trafficking crime involved a victim who was 15 years old or younger, the penalties increased to 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 to 10 million CFA ($163 to $16,290).  The law prescribed separate penalties for debt bondage, which ranged from five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 to 500,000 CFA ($16 to $815) and were also sufficiently stringent.  The law was published in French and English, the two official languages of the government.  The English version conflated trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling crimes by referring to trafficking in persons crimes, as defined under international law, as “slavery in persons,” while referring to smuggling-related offenses as “trafficking in persons.”  Increasing the potential for conflating migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons, Article 342-1 of Cameroon’s 2016 Penal Code prohibited both “trafficking in persons” and “slavery in persons.”  Legislation drafted in 2012 to address victim and witness protection and correct inconsistencies with international law remained pending for the tenth consecutive year.

Although law enforcement officials investigated and prosecuted trafficking crimes, the government did not maintain a centralized law enforcement data collection system on trafficking crimes, hindering its ability to disaggregate national human trafficking statistics, and likely resulting in underreported anti-trafficking statistics.  The government investigated 44 cases (four for sex trafficking, 30 for labor trafficking, and 10 for unspecified forms of trafficking) and continued investigations of two cases from the previous reporting period.  This compared with 93 cases investigated in 2021.  The government reported initiating prosecutions of 19 alleged traffickers (five for sex trafficking and 14 for unspecified forms of trafficking) and continued the prosecution of one case from the previous reporting period.  This compared with prosecuting 57 alleged traffickers in 2021.  Courts convicted three traffickers, including two traffickers sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 CFA ($815) each under Section 342 (1) of the Penal Code and one trafficker sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment under the penal code statutes for rape and aggravating circumstances (Sections 296 and 298).  This compared with 19 convictions under Section 342 (1) in 2021, with sentencing for all 12 convicted traffickers to prison time ranging from 18 months to 15 years.  The government continued to limit resources dedicated for anti-trafficking efforts because of the pandemic.  In addition, ongoing insecurity in the Far North Region, as well as armed violence in the Northwest and Southwest regions, continued to impede law enforcement’s ability to comprehensively investigate trafficking crimes.  Officials reported some potential cases did not move forward to prosecution because victims often chose not to participate in court proceedings due to the lack of available victim-witness assistance and fear of reprisal.  Due to the lack of protections and the protracted nature of criminal justice proceedings, some victims chose to settle potential trafficking cases outside the formal court system.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action.  The government did not report efforts to investigate prior allegations of government security forces sexually exploiting women in the Southwest Region or forcibly recruiting community members in the Far North Region to stand watch against Boko Haram incursions.  In June 2021, the Department of State suspended for five years the A-3 visa sponsorship privileges afforded to Cameroon bilateral mission members because the government declined to waive diplomatic immunity for U.S.  criminal proceedings involving mistreatment of a domestic worker and has not initiated its own prosecution.  Between 2017 and 2019, a Cameroonian diplomat posted in the United States engaged in alleged criminal violations related to human trafficking.  Because of diplomatic immunity, the United States could not commence prosecution, and the Government of Cameroon declined to waive immunity to allow the case to proceed.  The government did not report taking any action to hold the diplomat accountable for the third consecutive year.  The diplomat left the United States in 2021.  Additionally, between 2015 and 2017, a Cameroonian diplomat posted in the United States allegedly engaged in visa fraud related to a minor domestic worker.  Because of diplomatic immunity, the United States could not commence prosecution, nor did the government report taking any action for the sixth consecutive year to hold the diplomat accountable.  The diplomat left the United States in 2018.

The government, in partnership with civil society, trained more than 800 gendarmerie officers, security forces, magistrates, and lawyers on various topics, including anti-trafficking laws, trafficking investigations, and victim identification and referral.  Officials collaborated with the Governments of Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria on cross-border human trafficking investigations.

from 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – U.S. Department of State

2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – United States Department of State

Prosecution of human trafficking in Cote d’ Ivoire (TIP 2023)

Prevention of human trafficking in Ghana (TIP 2023)