By Elkass Sannoh
The Judiciary, on the 26th October, partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) to hold the first Judicial Colloquial and Mock Trial training for Judges and Magistrates on prosecution and adjudication of human trafficking offences.
The four-day training, sponsored by the United States Government under (JTIP ) T&TA grant, with support from the Italian Government is jointly planned and organized by the UNODC and the Judiciary through the Judicial and Legal Training Institute (JLTI) to provide professional development for Judges and Magistrates in adjudicating cases of human trafficking.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative to Sierra Leone, Dr. Pa Lamin Beyei said human trafficking is a human rights challenge that is increasing across countries and affecting particularly the vulnerable such as children, women and men.
He said the emergence of social media and other new ways of communication have led to innovations and sophistication in criminality in general and especially human trafficking.
The UNDP Resident Representative added that, “This unique enabler to traffickers must be countered by tougher measures and improved collaboration beyond borders to ensure successful prosecution of offenders.”
He assured that the, “United Nations will continue to take necessary steps towards the progressive realization of the rights of victims of trafficking.”
While he admitted that there are still challenges in the fight against trafficking, he commended Sierra Leone for taking necessary steps in curbing the menace.
“Criminals know how to hide, fight and cover their tracks. I believe this training will support the Judiciary and the justice sector with additional skills and knowledge for successful investigation and prosecution leading to conviction,” he noted.
n his remarks, the United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone, David Reimer said that the United States Embassy “desires to advance the security, prosperity and values that US citizens share” and further strive to advance equality at home and abroad.
“We commit to bringing this dedication to our efforts to fight human trafficking. We seek to use engagements like this Colloquium and mock trial training with the Government of Sierra Leone to build a more effective anti-trafficking strategy rooted in equality and compassion,” the UNDP Resident Representative stated.
He commended the Government’s continued anti-trafficking efforts including the progress in expediting and referring trafficking cases directly to the High Court and prosecuting and convicting traffickers.
He thanked the Honourable Chief Justice and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for assigning special prosecutors and dedicated judges for trafficking cases.
He stressed that judicial officials and prosecutors play key roles in holding traffickers accountable and preventing future acts of trafficking, adding that it makes the training strategic and timely.
Highlighting the objectives of the training, the Director of the Judicial and Legal Training Institute (JLTI), Honourable Justice Eku E. Roberts (JSC) said that the training will not only benefit judges as participants but also the Training Institute as a body.
In his opening remarks, the Honourable Chief Justice His Lordship Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards said, “the prevention, protection, prosecution and adjudicating cases involving human trafficking concerns violations of human rights which he said is central in any society be it political, civil, economic, social or cultural.
He went on to state that, “statistics show that about 10million or more are victims of modern slavery and that forced labour, sexual exploitation and forced marriages are the most common and the modern ways of perpetrating same; that human trafficking is a very lucrative business with sexual exploitation being the most lucrative.”
“In a bid to the prevent trafficking, the US Government since 2000 passed the Trafficking of Victims Protection Act 2000 which set up standards for fighting human trafficking. The standards are as follows: Tier 1: Countries and territories whose Governments fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards. Tier 2: Countries and territories whose Governments do not fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”
The Chief Justice maintained that, “Tier 3 are countries and territories whose Governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. No African country has completely complied with the trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standard for fighting human trafficking.”
He went on to note that, “22 African countries fall under Tier 2 that acknowledges that significant efforts are being made towards improvement; While 19 other countries fall under Tier 2‘s watch list indicating that not enough progress has been made in the country; 9 other countries 8 of which are not considered free, fall under Tier 3 where significant efforts have not been made.”
He however disclosed that quite encouraging is the fact that Sierra Leone is now in Tier 2 but the Road to same has been quite slow.
Referring to judges as “Guarantors, guardians, protectors and enforcers of Human Rights Norms,” the Chief Justice said, “it is but pertinent and inevitable that we should choose to, pursuant to the Bangalore Principles to be competent and diligent Judicial Officers by equipping ourselves in ways as to acquire or reinforce knowledge on the subject so as to be sufficiently knowledgeable, possessing the requisite knowledge and gravitas to handle such topics.”
He reiterated that the Judiciary’s promise and commitment to all Sierra Leoneans is to “respect, protect and fulfil human rights obligations without exception.”
The training will look at international and national legal framework on trafficking in persons, Sierra Leone’s legal framework on trafficking in persons, international mechanisms of cooperation in criminal matters among others.
Courtesy of the Calabash 1st November 2021