The government increased law enforcement efforts. Law No. 2016-111 on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 10 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($8,590-$17,190) for adult trafficking and 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 50 million FCFA ($17,190-$85,930) for child trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2010 Child Trafficking and Child Labor Law was also used to prosecute child trafficking, and it criminalized child sex trafficking and labor trafficking with 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 20 million FCFA ($8,590-$34,370). The government used penal code provisions on illegal mining and “pimping” to prosecute trafficking cases. The penal code prescribed penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million to 10 million FCFA ($1,720-$17,190) for “pimping” and penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50 million to 100 million FCFA ($85,930-$171,870) for illegal mining. These penalties were significantly lower than those prescribed under the trafficking law.
Authorities initiated at least 11 case investigations and continued three case investigations, compared with investigating 18 cases in the previous reporting period. The government initiated prosecution of 83 alleged traffickers and continued prosecution of six alleged traffickers, and courts convicted 43 traffickers during the reporting period. Judges sentenced all 43 convicted traffickers to between five years and 20 years’ imprisonment. This compared with prosecution of 25 alleged traffickers and conviction of 12 traffickers in the previous reporting period. In one case investigated by the Sub-Directorate in the Fight against Trafficking and Child Labor (SDLTEDJ), law enforcement arrested 24 alleged traffickers and identified 68 child victims, most of whom were from Burkina Faso, exploited in forced labor in cocoa; courts convicted and sentenced five traffickers under Law No. 2016-111 and 17 traffickers under penal code provisions on child labor. The government continued collaborating with foreign counterparts, including from Burkina Faso and Nigeria, on law enforcement activities.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, official corruption and complicity in trafficking crimes remained concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Some observers alleged low-ranking police on the borders with Mali and Ghana facilitated smuggling, including potential trafficking cases, and organized a system to collect bribes at checkpoints and along bus routes. In 2018, five gendarmes and two military firefighters allegedly abducted a trafficking victim from an NGO shelter; a military tribunal sentenced four of the gendarmes and the military firefighters to 50 days in military jail in August 2019 as an administrative sanction for unbecoming conduct. Following the 50-day detention, the officials returned to their military duties. A subsequent prosecution of four of the gendarmes and one of the military firefighters for kidnapping of a minor, forced confinement, and attempted rape remained pending before a military investigative judge at the end of the reporting period. Although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, the UN reported there was one new allegation, submitted in 2021, of alleged sexual exploitation with trafficking indicators by Ivoirian peacekeepers deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti between 2010 and 2012. The UN investigation into the allegation was pending, and the government had not yet reported the accountability measures taken, if any, for the open case by the end of the reporting period.
The SDLTEDJ bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-trafficking laws and investigating cases throughout the country. Six special police units established under the SDLTEDJ in the previous reporting period continued to investigate child labor and child trafficking cases. These units operated out of SDLTEDJ branch offices in the six cities in which they were based. The gendarmes under the Ministry of Defense were responsible for investigations in rural areas where the SDLTEDJ was not present. Resource limitations constrained the Brigade Mondaine—the unit responsible for investigating prostitution and sex trafficking—to Abidjan and a few regional precincts. The Transnational Organized Crime Unit (UCT) had national jurisdiction over transnational organized crime, including a specialized human trafficking department. The SDLTEDJ was responsible for child trafficking cases, UCT for transnational trafficking cases, and Brigade Mondaine for sex trafficking cases; however, the units lacked coordination, and no unit had a clear responsibility for internal adult labor trafficking cases. Limited funding and resources significantly hindered law enforcement’s ability to identify and investigate human trafficking cases.
In August 2021, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights issued a directive creating new prosecutorial teams within the appeals courts in four cities focused on combating human trafficking to accelerate the procedural process and support the public prosecutor’s office in prosecuting trafficking cases. Although not yet operational, the government, in partnership with a foreign donor, began providing anti-trafficking training to the units. The government, in collaboration with international organizations and foreign donors, trained judicial officials, law enforcement, and civil society organizations on human trafficking laws and regulations, victim protection during criminal proceedings, investigative and prosecutorial techniques, and cross-unit collaboration. Observers reported additional anti-trafficking training for law enforcement and judicial officials was needed. Some judges and prosecutors remained unaware of the 2016 law and continued to use the 2010 law and illegal mining and “pimping” statutes to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties.