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Dhaka Tribune

Human trafficking: Govt on hard line to prevent mass acquittals

  • In 2021 and 2022, all accused in resolved cases were acquitted
  • Around 6,500 cases were under investigation until 2021
Update : 15 Dec 2023, 09:28 AM

The law enforcers are active in preventing human trafficking; they are arresting the culprits, filing cases, and submitting charge sheets in the cases. But at the end of the trials, most of the accused are acquitted, while jail sentences are lenient compared to the severity of the crimes.

In 2021 and 2022, all the accused in the resolved cases were acquitted. However, from January to September this year, only 57 accused were sentenced to various terms, and two got life imprisonment.

Due to this tragic situation of human trafficking cases, the Home Ministry has issued special instructions, asking law enforcers at the field level to follow guidelines for investigations.

According to the guidelines, the investigators have been asked to gather detailed information on the nature of the victims, introduction of the victims or their guardians, whether the victims or their guardians were forced to give consent by fraud or deception or by false promises or financial or other benefits, and whether the victim was trafficked by intimidation or abduction or by exploiting any of their helplessness.

The investigators will also gather information on transport or transfer, desired destination, means of transport, description of the route, duration of travel, travel companions, travel expenses, use of papers or documents or employment contracts, training or grooming on what to tell the police, border guards, or immigration police if caught. In cross-border trafficking cases, the examiner will describe the border, the time and modalities of crossing the border, and shelter homes.

The guidelines also state that an investigator will seek to know whether the victims were recruited with promise of employment, whether they were offered their desired jobs at the destination, whether they were coerced or forced into work or employment, whether the victims were ever sold, and whether they were subjected to labour, sexual, or other forms of exploitation.

Besides, the investigators will collect detailed information on forced begging, drug use, restriction of movement, threats to life, not allowing food, confiscation of travel documents, forced prostitution, use as an enslaved person, use in the entertainment business, etc.

Lack of evidence, incomplete probe

A senior police official, seeking anonymity, said the investigation is critical to ensuring a proper trial. The criminals get acquittal from the court if there is any loophole in the investigation and the charge sheet. That is why the acquittal rate in human trafficking cases is much higher than the sentence of the accused.

According to the Home Ministry, around 6,500 cases were under investigation until December 2021. Of these, charge sheets were submitted in 366 cases, and final reports were presented in 40 cases. But not a single person was sentenced after trials in the whole year. Instead, after the trial of two cases, five accused were acquitted.

Even in 2022, not a single accused was sentenced. The police filed charge sheets in court in 64 cases and gave final reports in four cases. While 27 trials were completed, all the accused were acquitted.

However, until September of this year, charge sheets were filed in 246 cases and final reports in 129 cases. As of September, 57 accused were sentenced to various terms, but at least 1,279 were acquitted.

"Human trafficking is an international crime. As a result, even if the local part of a case is properly investigated, the external part remains unexplained," Dhaka Metropolitan Police Additional Commissioner (Crime and Ops) Khandkar Mahid Uddin told Bangla Tribune. "Yet charge sheets are submitted in court. But the accused are being acquitted due to the lack of evidence."

This officer, who has served in various units of the police for a long time, said: "During the trial of human trafficking cases in the court, witnesses are available from within the country, but those staying abroad do not come to testify."

He thinks that if the investigators carry out their tasks properly in line with the guidelines, the rate of punishment in human trafficking cases will increase further.

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