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7 years on, no tribunal to handle trafficking cases yet

  • Published at 10:05 pm August 25th, 2019
Bangladeshi human trafficking victims in Vanuatu

Only 0.5% human traffickers prosecuted in six years

Seven years has passed since the government passed the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act (PSHTA), but setting up a tribunal to exclusively handle human trafficking cases- a major provision of the act- remain unimplemented.

The act was passed to prevent trafficking and punish the criminals, and the rules of the act were also formulated later in 2017. But the tribunal required by law to try cases filed under this act, has not been established till date.

Brac's Migration Program Head Shariful Hasan told Dhaka Tribune that the major problem is that the government is not prioritizing the setting up of a tribunal for human trafficking.  

“What we heard is that the finance ministry does not have enough budget to set up tribunals in all 64 districts, however, I feel this issue was not given enough priority,” he said. 

He added Bangladesh is on Tier-2 watch list, and it might get black listed if the situation worsens. 

Tier 2 refers to the governments of countries that do not fully meet the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

“The government should start with at least five or six districts where human trafficking rate is higher in comparison to other districts in the country,” he said. 

Hasan said: “We do not have any authority to do anything about this, but all I can say even if the government decides to start with a few tribunals, that would add something to combat human trafficking in Bangladesh.”

Also Read - Ending the scourge of human trafficking

Bangladesh reported just 10 to 15 convictions a year in human trafficking cases, compared to 50 to 80 convictions a year in neighbouring Nepal, according to the UNODC 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

Between 2013 and 2019, a total of 4,668 cases were filed, and only 245 of them were resolved. 4,106 cases are still pending trial as of July 2019. 

The highest number of cases were filed in Dhaka, and the second highest in Jessore, followed by Cox’s Bazar.

Brac's Shariful Hasan, quoting data from police’s Trafficking in Persons cell, and court records, said perpetrators in only 33 cases have been prosecuted so far in the last six years, which is only 0.5% of the total cases.

“Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals are already overburdened with cases they are specifically tasked to deal with,” he said. “Forming tribunals dedicated for human trafficking cases is now a must, in order to expedite the ongoing trials, and curb the overwhelming case load.”

Former chairman at National Human Rights Commission Kazi Reazul Hoque earlier said that implementation of the act is a big challenge now. 

“Due to lack of the specific tribunal mandated by the act, subordinate courts are looking after the cases, which creates a case backlog in the courts. This is one of the main reasons for delays in trafficking cases,” he said urging the government to allocate a budget to establish the tribunal.

Dhaka Tribune called Law Minister Anisul Haq, said he does not have any comments right now, he does not have the proper information at the moment. 

According to the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012, a person committing the offense of human trafficking shall be punished with imprisonment, not exceeding imprisonment for life, but not less than five years of rigorous imprisonment, and a fine of not less than Tk50,000.