Guyana intensifies fight against Trafficking in Persons with launch of SOPs

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Guyana has intensified its fight against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) with the launch of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for investigating and prosecution of cases.

The development is a collaboration between the government, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the US Department of State.

Minister of Public Security and Chairman of the Ministerial Taskforce for Trafficking in Persons, Hon. Khemraj Ramjattan said the SOPs were part of a larger effort to protect the rights of TIP victims.

He stressed that with wealth, Guyana is going to become a magnet for such crimes and that all stakeholders needed to be singing from the same hymnbook.

“That is why having SOPs are important. What they do primarily is ensure that we all know that there is a hymnbook that we are singing from, and all of us must sing from it. So even if you are law enforcement, we know for a fact that this is how we are going to do the interview so that we are going to get as much information as possible from the suspect,” the minister said.

He continued, “my fear is that if we do not set up the preparatory work to ensure that we are smarter –to know how to deal with them, how to identify them, how to interview them, how to prosecute them – we are not going to be that successful notwithstanding we are going to have lots of money. They might be the ones who could then take away our territory.”

Regional Coordinating Officer for the Caribbean and Chief of Mission for IOM Robert Natiello said while the SOPs were a significant milestone, it marked the beginning of hard work for the stakeholders.

He added that they would have to work hand in hand to implement the SOPs and urged them to become familiar with the document quickly.

“The success or failure of a case can hinge on a mired issue such as deficiency in evidence collection, perhaps the tone of an interview can affect how information is gathered or the collaboration between a victim advocate and a prosecutor so with these issues in view, the importance of following the procedures cannot be overstated,” he underscored.

Attorney-at-Law and Legal Consultant Diana Shaw called on the stakeholders to let the SOPs become an everyday habit so that the best practice becomes standard. She said other Caribbean countries were looking to Guyana since along with Belize, it was the only country with a Tier One status on Trafficking in Persons in the region.

“We want to ensure that from the very beginning, the persons who are contacted and who are having that first contact with victims are aware of the need to protect the rights of victims, that they are working with victims in a manner that ensures their trust, that respects their rights and also supports their rehabilitation and recovery.”

The SOPs, Shaw stressed, would ensure that strong cases were built and that there were more convictions which would send a clear message to traffickers.

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George said the launch of the SOPs was evidence of Guyana’s commitment to tackling Trafficking in Persons in a comprehensive manner. She noted that they would be used in the courts so that magistrates and judges were better equipped.

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