Prosecution of human trafficking in Tunisia (TIP 2023)

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The government increased overall law enforcement efforts but initiated fewer prosecutions.  Tunisia’s anti-trafficking law, Organic Law 2016-61, enacted in July 2016, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 Tunisian dinars (TND) ($16,160) for offenses involving adult victims and 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000-100,000 TND ($16,160-$32,320) for those involving child victims.  These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping.  Article 171 of the penal code criminalized begging and using children to beg and prescribed penalties of six months to two years’ imprisonment.

An international organization reported the government frequently charged migrant smugglers under the anti-trafficking law; thus, the government’s reporting of trafficking investigation, prosecution, and conviction data may be conflated with other crimes such as migrant smuggling.  In 2022, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) conducted a total of 266 new investigations, which included 24 cases of sex trafficking, 30 cases of domestic servitude, 12 cases of labor trafficking in construction, 14 cases of labor trafficking in agriculture, five cases of forced labor in the hospitality sector, 45 cases of child “economic exploitation” (forced labor), six cases of child forced criminality, 117 cases of forced begging, and 13 unspecified forms of trafficking.  The government also investigated eight cases of sexual exploitation in the production of pornography with trafficking indicators.  This was a decrease compared with 332 investigations – 122 cases of forced labor, 135 cases of child “economic exploitation” (forced labor), 27 cases of sexual exploitation, 12 cases of child forced criminality, and 36 unspecified forms of trafficking – the government initiated in 2021 but an increase compared with 180 new investigations in 2020.  The National Authority to Combat Trafficking in Persons (National Authority) – the government’s lead agency coordinating anti-trafficking efforts – reported the government, with the assistance of a legal aid NGO, initiated prosecutions against 25 alleged sex traffickers and four alleged labor traffickers under the anti-trafficking law in 2022.  This was a decrease compared with 200 labor trafficking prosecutions initiated in 2021 but similar to 32 new prosecutions in 2020.  The government also continued 382 prosecutions initiated in previous reporting periods.  Courts convicted 59 traffickers in 2022 (55 sex traffickers and four labor traffickers) under the anti-trafficking law.  This was a significant increase compared with eight convictions in 2021 and the largest number of convictions achieved since the 2016 anti-trafficking law was enacted.  The government did not report sentencing information for 2022.  The government continued an investigation initiated in 2021 of an employee of a publicly funded social assistance center for alleged complicity in child trafficking but otherwise did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) designated a judge at each tribunal of first instance, for a total of 28, to serve as focal points to prosecute and investigate human trafficking cases.  The MOI’s special victims unit included brigades of judicial police and national guard officers throughout the country who specialized in cybercrime and assistance to victims of trafficking and GBV.  The MOJ continued to monitor and maintain statistics on human trafficking cases brought before the judiciary through a specialized office; this office also had the authority to conduct research on the application of the anti-trafficking law and advise the Minister of Justice on policies related to the implementation of the law.  The National Authority continued coordination with regional counterparts to advocate for the creation of a regional mechanism to support victim identification and assistance, as well as to coordinate on transnational trafficking investigations and support exchanges of expertise; the National Authority’s regional “train the trainer” center was pending its launch at the end of the reporting period.  The government – at times in coordination with international and civil society organizations – conducted a wide variety of anti-trafficking trainings for law enforcement and judicial officials, healthcare practitioners, social workers, and other government officials on identifying and assisting trafficking victims, as well as investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases.  Nevertheless, insufficient training of judicial and law enforcement officials continued to hinder investigations and victim identification efforts, and some officials conflated human trafficking and migrant smuggling.  The National Authority reported the lack of an independent budget and insufficient capacity building hindered the government’s efforts to fully implement the law.  Furthermore, civil society organizations reported there continued to be a low level of awareness among police and judicial authorities on the application of the anti-trafficking law and handling of trafficking cases.  Due to their lack of familiarity with the law, some judicial officials used other laws that had less stringent sentences to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders.  Observers also reported courts dismissed several potential trafficking cases because of a lack of evidence on the exploitative nature of the crime; lack of victim or witness testimony also created challenges for officials to successfully prosecute and convict trafficking offenders.

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

2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – United States Department of State

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