Thu | Dec 13, 2018

National Rapporteur: Court delays hampering participation of human trafficking victims

Published:Tuesday | July 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Gleaner Writer
Gordon Harrison

The Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons (ONRTIP) has said that the delays in the justice system have negatively affected the participation of victims in the quest for justice. Human trafficking is the movement of people by way of fraud, force or coercion, in a push to exploit them.

Diahann Gordon Harrison, the national rapporteur, tabled her office's first report, The Underbelly of Human Trafficking: The Jamaican Reality 2018, in Parliament last week. The island is currently observing its annual TIP week, under the theme 'From Victim to Survivor: The Hard Road to Recovery'.

"From the interviews, it was borne out that in the majority of TIP cases, victims are generally frustrated with the lengthy delays within the criminal-justice system. Victims are often eager to reintegrate into society and return to their families," said the ONRTIP.

Under the Trafficking in Persons Act, the Government is required to provide assistance with shelter for victims and expenses generated during the criminal proceedings against traffickers.

The report continued, "It is also a concern of the ODPP (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) that when victims experience lengthy delays, traffickers may find ways to interfere with such victims and witnesses before they have a chance to give their evidence."

The ONRTIP argued that there could be negative implications for the quality of evidence that would be presented at trial, which would influence the prospect of a conviction.

Trafficking convictions

Jamaica has secured five human trafficking convictions and there are 18 cases pending in parish courts and the Supreme Court, according to data from the ODPP.

Jamaica has maintained its Tier 2 ranking in the 2018 US Department of State TIP report, which means that Jamaica does not meet the minimum US standards to combat the crime, but the country is making significant efforts to do so.

The national rapporteur is charged with monitoring the Government's response to victim protection, and the prevention and prosecution of the crime. A supplementary report with recommendations from the ONRTIP is expected to be tabled in the House of Representatives today.

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com