2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Central African Republic
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||27 June 2011|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Central African Republic, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee8cc.html [accessed 13 March 2014]|
Central African Republic (Tier 3)
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a source and destination country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. While the scope of the trafficking problem is unknown, observers report most victims are trafficked within the country, but a smaller number move back and forth from Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Sudan. Trafficking offenders, including members of expatriate communities from Nigeria, Sudan, and Chad, as well as transient merchants and herders, subject children to domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, or forced labor in agriculture, diamond mines, and street vending. Within the country, children are at risk of becoming victims of forced labor, Ba'aka (Pygmy) minorities are at risk of becoming victims of forced agricultural work, and girls are at risk of being exploited in the sex trade in urban centers. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which operates in eastern regions of the CAR, continues to abduct and exploit enslaved Sudanese, Congolese, Central African, and Ugandan children for use as cooks, porters, concubines, and combatants; some of these children are also taken back and forth across borders into Sudan or the DRC.
Human rights observers reported that opposition militia groups in the north of the country continued to unlawfully use children in armed conflict, some of whom may be trafficking victims. They believe, however, that the two main rebel groups, the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) and the Army for the Restitution of Democracy (APRD), no longer recruit children, as a result of ongoing disarmament, demobilization, and reinsertion (DDR) activities initiated by the 2008 peace agreement signed with the government. Though the UFDR and APRD deny the presence of children in their ranks, some observers believe these groups, as well as the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), which is outside the country's peace process, still harbor children. Village self-defense units, which receive little, if any, support from the government, used children as combatants, lookouts, and porters during the year. UNICEF estimates that children comprise one-third of the self-defense units.
The Government of the Central African Republic does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and has been placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the last six consecutive years. Therefore, pursuant to Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the CAR is deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3. The government, which has limited human and physical capital, did not investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, identify or provide protective services to trafficking victims, or take steps to raise public awareness about the dangers of human trafficking. The revised Central African penal code, enacted in January 2010, outlaws all forms of trafficking in persons, but awareness of this statute remained low. The government, via the Prime Minister's Office, took steps to create an inter-ministerial committee to fight child exploitation, including child trafficking, though its formal establishment remains on hold pending review by the government's Economic and Social Council.
Recommendations for Central African Republic: Ensure that the Economic and Social Council receives the budget allocation necessary to reconvene; submit the plan for the National Council for the Protection of Children to the Economic and Social Council for review; in collaboration with NGOs and the international community, train law enforcement officials and magistrates to use the penal code's trafficking provisions to investigate and prosecute these offenses; increase efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as females in prostitution, street children, and Pygmies; in collaboration with NGOs and the international community, provide care to children in commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; and develop and implement a program to educate the public about the dangers of trafficking.
The Government of the Central African Republic made no discernible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 151 of its penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons, and prescribes penalties of five to 10 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. If the offense involves a child victim, Article 151 prescribes the additional penalty of hard labor. If the offense involves a child victim of sex trafficking or forced labor similar to slavery, the prescribed penalty is life imprisonment with hard labor. Articles 7 and 8 of the January 2009 Labor Code prohibit forced and bonded labor and prescribe sufficiently stringent penalties of five to 10 years' imprisonment. Victims can file civil suits to seek damages from traffickers. These provisions, however, are not enforced and no cases of suspected human trafficking offenses were investigated or prosecuted during the reporting period. Traditional dispute resolution methods are widely practiced throughout the country, often to the exclusion of formal legal proceedings to punish criminal acts. Enforcement officials report that they are not provided the appropriate technical training and resources needed to identify and investigate trafficking cases, and officials outside the capital may not have access to copies of the legal codes. During the year, the country's military conducted joint operations with the Ugandan People's Defense Force against the LRA, resulting in the release of 43 child trafficking victims.
The government did not make significant efforts to ensure that victims of trafficking receive access to protective services during the reporting period. Moreover, the CAR government did not increase efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, though the government's presence outside the capital remained limited, restricting its capacity to do so. The government maintained its partnership with UNICEF and NGO implementing partners for the protection and reintegration of demobilized child soldiers, some of whom had been subjected to unlawful conscription and use. It took no further action, however, to promote a policy against child soldiering, and an investigation into the use of child soldiers in self-defense militias that may be supported by the government – initiated by the deputy minister of Defense during the previous reporting year – did not yield any results. Justice officials claimed that trafficking victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, though no victims were identified during the year. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution, and did not offer assistance to its own nationals who are repatriated as victims of trafficking.
The government undertook few anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. Under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office, the government took steps to establish the National Council for the Protection of Children that will be composed of committees to address specific topics related to child exploitation, including types of child trafficking. The Prime Minister's Office, with UNICEF's assistance, conducted meetings about the establishment of the national council with relevant government ministries, NGOs, and international organizations and conducted a national workshop to formalize its structure in November 2010. Several of the Council's committees will address issues relevant to human trafficking, including the sexual exploitation of children, child soldiers, and child labor. However, the Council can formally enter into existence only after review by the Economic and Social Council, an advisory body to the National Assembly which did not meet during the year, and signature by the prime minister.
During the year, the government signed, with UNICEF, a 2011 Action Plan for the protection of children, which includes a radio awareness campaign in which government officials would deliver messages to the public on the dangers of human trafficking. The government did not take any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the year, but a regional official reported traveling to diamond mining regions in the western part of the country to speak to local leaders to discourage the use of forced child labor in diamond mines.