13th April 2017, By Department of Public Communications.
Increased inter-agency cooperation and collaboration amongst law enforcement officers in Kenya is enhancing the process leading to the detection, arrest and prosecution of criminals engaged in human trafficking, smuggling of migrants and transitional organised crimes. This comes as a time when sharing of data and intelligence by the key security agencies in the country and regionally is contributing to the harmonization of the process of investigating and prosecuting human traffickers and smugglers of migrants.
Attorney General Professor Githu Muigai observed there was need to continually form networks to share data and intelligence between state actors and partners with a view of nabbing perpetrators of human rights abuses exploiting desperate individuals.
“We know that due to the social-economic dynamism of labor migration and development in the world today, many people are seeking better lives for themselves. Men and women are crossing borders in search of employment; among these are the many who are deceived as well as those who risk everything to change their life situations. These activities are being carried out by transnational criminal cartels out to make money,” the AG stated. He further noted that the operations of traffickers and poor sensitization of law enforcers on existing legislation had created a great challenge within the criminal justice system where the victims languished in jails after being charged with the offense of being in the country illegally while the traffickers continued with their criminal activities.
The Chief Legal Advisor spoke yesterday when he opened a seminar to deliberate pertinent issues relating to causes, responses and current debate on human trafficking in relation with the critical roles and responsibilities of key government agencies in enforcing human trafficking laws.
“We continue to witness human trafficking and smuggling of migrants of an unprecedented scale. All our television screens today are highlighting the terrible plight of migrants being rescued at sea or drowning while others are in grave conditions suffered while attempting to enter other countries and especially Europe. We are all know familiar with the scenes at the Italian Sea port of Lampedusa.” He told participants while explaining that similar scenes were being witnessed in Kenya where the plight of young Kenyans seeking to be brought back from foreign countries after suffering great misfortune were constantly being highlighted by the media.
“Kenya remains vulnerable to human trafficking and smuggling of migrants as it is an attractive route of transition and destination due to its stability and infrastructure. The most popular routes are through the Northern Kenya, (Moyale, Marsabit, Isiolo) and North Eastern Kenya route,” the Government’s Chief legal advisor stated. Law enforcement officers have made several arrests of people suspected of attempting to smuggle migrants into Kenya through the airports as well as the coastal ports of Lamu, Malindi, and Mombasa.
The meeting organised by the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) and the Office of the Attorney General and Department of Justice (OAG&DOJ) also presented an opportunity to deliberate on progress made since the launch of the African Union Commission Initiative Against Trafficking (AU.COMMIT) in 2012.
The directors of Criminal Investigations, Mr. Ndegwa Muhoro, Assets Recovery, Ms. Muthoni Kimani, as well as Immigration Services, Major General (Retired) Gordon Kihanlagwa shared experiences with their counterparts from the United States of America on the linkages between transnational organized crimes and the threat to international peace and security.
As the Central Authority on Mutual Legal Assistance, Kenya has successfully entered into agreements with other nations to provide assistance in combating transnational organized crimes. This is regularly being done through capacity building of personnel, acquisition of equipment as well as through sharing of data and intelligence.
The UN Convention against Organized Crimes (UNTOC) was the first globally binding instrument where there was global agreement in the definition of trafficking in persons as a crime. The Convention sought to combat transnational organized crimes while providing a mechanism for domestic and international cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers. This was operationalized by The Protocol on Protection of Victims and Respect for Human Rights and The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants. Kenya ratified UNTOC and the protocols.
Meanwhile, several international action plans aimed at assisting countries to combat these vices are operational. These include the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) coordinating the implementation of UNTOC and Protocols by State parties; the EU Global Action Plan 2015- 2019; as well as the UN Inter-Agency Coordination aimed at improving coordination of UN agencies to better combat human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. The African Union Commission Initiative Against Trafficking (AU.COMMIT) of 2012 operationalized the Ouagadougou Action Plan to combat trafficking in Human Being Especially Women and Children of 2006. Kenya has ratified all these international instruments and treaties.
Kenya has enacted laws to combat these crimes including the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act 2010 which was enacted in 2010, and came into force in 2012. In 2016 Parliament enacted the National Legal Aid Act thereby making availability, accessibility, quality and affordability of legal services for the vulnerable including the smuggled migrants also a reality.
“Unfortunately, law enforcement and judicial officers were not properly sensitized on the law especially with regards to the victims who ought not to be prosecuted. Victims should be held confidentially and a Victims Impact Statement should be presented in court,” AG Muigai observed on the challenges of enforcing and protecting the victims. He reiterated that Human dignity was an inherent right protected in the Constitution while freedom from slavery and servitude was prohibited in Article 25.
He urged, “In line with these fundamental rights, it’s important that our law enforcement agencies while investigating and prosecuting traffickers and smugglers of migrants, respect and protect the dignity of victims.”