“After successful investigations, there must be successful prosecution” – Min. Ramjattan

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRECwtrdVnA” width=”100%” height=”315″]

– 32 reported TIP cases, 243 victims of human trafficking in 2018

– need for more training and interagency collaboration

– successful prosecutions can attract investors

DPI, Guyana, Saturday, March 2, 2019

Trafficking in Persons (TIP) offenders must be brought to justice. That was the call by Minister of Public Security and Chairman of the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons, Khemraj Ramjattan as he addressed several prosecutors and magistrates.

Minister Ramjattan was at the time delivering the feature address at a “Discussion on the prosecution of Trafficking in Persons Cases in Guyana” at the Regency Hotel.

The Public Security Minister stated that “after successful investigations, there must be successful prosecution”.

He said that while the Task Force has been taking steps such as training, awareness programmes and interagency collaboration, more still needs to be done. He underscored the need for training of police prosecutors, magistrates and judges, so they can build their capacity and better ensure offenders are prosecuted and victims supported.

TIP, he noted, is a trillion-dollar business and the government must ensure that it can cut the profits of the perpetrators by having successful prosecutions. According to Minister Ramjattan, in 2018, there were 32 TIP reports with a total of 243 victims, 11 of whom were under the age of 18. While there were only 32 reports, when law enforcement intervened, close to 40 persons were found at holding places such as nightclubs.

The Public Security Minister also highlighted a total of 57 police officers were found to be involved in TIP activities. A total of 36 charges were laid in 2018 along with 23 actual TIP charges with two convictions. The hotspot regions are 4, 7 and 9 with countries of origin for the victims being Venezuela with 162 victims, Cuba with 49, Guyana 21 and the Dominican Republic with 10 along with a number of other Caribbean countries.

“The task force understands that we will need improvement in personnel, we will need improvement in our investigative methods, we will need improvement in our prosecution capabilities but we can only manage that when we are also talking to the decision makers as to what are some of their challenges in making certain there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. When a good prosecutor knows what are the deficiencies and deficits of his case, he will be better prepared for the next case” the minister stated.

He further underscored that if Guyana successfully addresses this scourge, the country will retain its Tier One status, more investors will find interest in Guyana and the country will be more secure.

Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally, in her remarks, said she believes that an effective criminal justice response to TIP functions as a disincentive. However, the minister acknowledged that it can only be achieved with training and extending TIP awareness programmes to frontline officials who may come into contact with TIP victims.

“I am of the perception that successful convictions of offenders, redress of grievances of victims and prevention of crimes of trafficking are possible when first responders and particularly law enforcement, prosecutors and magistrates perform their task diligently and from a position of being informed, trained and prepared to effectively handle these sensitive cases,” Minister Ally stated.

She noted that magistrates, prosecutors and other legal personnel are an indispensable part of the response to anti-trafficking. The responsibility of the justice system is not only to punish offenders but also to restore the human rights and needs of the victims, she explained.

Prosecutors have a vital role to play and “it is the prosecutors who know how to advise the investigators, how to marshal the evidence, how to obtain assistance from other sources, how to present a case and how to deal with challenges at court-mounted by defence lawyers,” Minister Ally noted.

Isaiah Braithwaite

Images: Ameer Sattaur