The government maintained mixed anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Senegal’s 2005 Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Related Practices and to Protect Victims criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine for sex trafficking and labor trafficking—except forced begging—and prescribed lesser penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine for forced begging. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. While the 2005 anti-trafficking law criminalized forced begging, provisions in the penal code that allowed seeking of alms under certain conditions may have hampered law enforcement officials’ ability to distinguish traditional alms-seeking from exploitation through forced begging. Revised anti-trafficking legislation, drafted in collaboration with an international organization, remained pending before the Ministry of Justice for the third consecutive year.
In data collected from five of Senegal’s 14 regions, the government reported initiating 24 investigations, compared with 14 during the previous reporting period; prosecuting 29 alleged traffickers, compared with 19 during the previous reporting period; and convicting 20 traffickers, compared with 12 during the previous reporting period, with data collected from the same number of regions. Courts sentenced 14 out of the 20 convicted traffickers to at least one year imprisonment, compared with 11 out of 12 convicted traffickers during the previous reporting period; only six traffickers received sentences in compliance with penalties prescribed in the 2005 anti-trafficking law and courts issued fully suspended sentences to at least four traffickers, which did not serve to deter or adequately reflect the nature of the crime. The government prosecuted potential trafficking crimes under other penal code statutes, which often resulted in cases being heard by correctional courts rather than criminal courts and their prescribing significantly lower penalties for misdemeanor crimes with trafficking indicators, such as “pimping.” In at least seven cases, the government did not pursue trafficking convictions—either by dismissing the cases or issuing administrative fines for other crimes. One official noted over-crowded prisons posed a significant challenge to the judicial system, sometimes resulting in courts issuing fines for lower-level offenses in trafficking cases. In November 2021, the Minister of Justice released a judicial circular urging prosecutors to seek harsher penalties consistent with the anti-trafficking law, appeal court decisions and sentences not in line with the law, and increase data collection and reporting on such efforts.
The government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers for child forced begging for the second consecutive year. When officials identified a child forced begging victim, they often issued administrative penalties to the alleged perpetrators instead of criminally investigating and prosecuting the case, in part due to public pressure associated with the social influence of Quranic teachers, which failed to deter future exploitation. Officials previously observed children being sent back in the streets to beg after authorities returned them to their families. The government reportedly prosecuted and convicted at least two Quranic teachers in 2021 for non-trafficking-related misdemeanor crimes related to child abuse or negligence, including a case involving a child’s death, and issued suspended sentences to both perpetrators. In July 2021, a Quranic student in Touba died from injuries sustained while trying to escape his school after he was allegedly abused; the case remained under investigation and authorities had not filed any charges against his teachers by the end of the reporting period.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Observers alleged officials sometimes refused to investigate trafficking cases or pressured the judiciary to drop cases, especially cases involving Quranic teachers, and some security officials allegedly facilitated illegal border crossings of migrants. Although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, an international organization reported there were five new allegations submitted in 2021 of alleged sexual exploitation with trafficking indicators by Senegalese peacekeepers deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) between 2017 to 2021. There were also two similar accusations—one from the peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and another from the now-closed operation in Haiti—reported in 2020 concerning events alleged to have taken place between 2009 and 2015. UN and Government of Senegal investigations remained pending, and the government had not yet reported the accountability measures taken, if any, for the open cases at the end of the reporting period.
The CNLTP, in collaboration with an international organization and foreign donor, began developing standard operating procedures for law enforcement and front-line officials on the identification and investigation of trafficking cases, including screening procedures for identifying victims and, within the Dakar region, procedures for referring victims to services; the draft procedures remained pending at the end of the reporting period. The government collaborated with international organizations to provide specialized training to law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting human trafficking cases, investigative techniques, and victim protection; this compared with no specialized trainings held during the previous reporting period. Many law enforcement and judicial personnel remained unaware of the provisions of the 2005 anti-trafficking law, which, coupled with limited institutional capacity, inhibited efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers and collect data on such efforts. Observers reported investigative magistrates lacked training to identify trafficking cases, leading to potential misclassification of trafficking crimes and application of lower penalties than those prescribed in the anti-trafficking law. The government previously developed an anti-trafficking database (“Systraite”) in collaboration with an international organization to collect law enforcement and victim protection data and implemented it in four regions; however, the government’s ability to collect comprehensive law enforcement statistics remained limited. The government did not report cooperating with foreign counterparts on any law enforcement activities.