The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Articles 210 and 211 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Authorities participated in 36 joint investigative teams with European counterparts but did not extradite any suspected traffickers, compared with 44 in 2017. Failure to prioritize trafficking, widespread corruption, and sweeping legal and judicial reforms hampered effective law enforcement. Observers reported endemic corruption and alleged complicity in trafficking crimes by government officials, particularly with officials exploiting minors while in the care of government-managed placement centers and acting as accomplices to traffickers.
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Furthermore, recently adopted changes to the criminal code could diminish the capacity of police to gather evidence in various types of criminal investigations, including trafficking cases. New legal provisions on the early retirement of police officers required 30 percent of the workforce to retire, resulting in overextended officers handling multiple cases simultaneously and struggling to build strong cases for prosecutors.
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Additionally, a new law reducing prison sentences for prisoners held in inappropriate conditions resulted in the early release of more than 500 convicted traffickers from prison during the reporting period. Knowledge gaps limited prosecution efforts. NGOs reported many police officers and judges lacked specialized training and sensitivity toward sex trafficking cases and trafficking issues, including a basic understanding of trafficking. Judges typically did not differentiate between prostitution and sex trafficking as distinct crimes, which had detrimental effects on sentencing for perpetrators and compensation for victims. Observers frequently criticized police, particularly in rural areas and small towns, for being unaware of the exploitation potential in prostitution, leading to a failure to check for indicators of force, fraud, or coercion when encountering individuals in prostitution, including minors.
Adapted from TIP 2019 by the U.S. Department of State