Many accused in human trafficking cases are going unpunished, opening the door to a gradual increase in the despicable crime in the country.
Sources said the number of such criminal cases is high, but the rates of their settlement and conviction are very low.
Slow trial proceedings and negligence of officials in the cases are responsible for the low rate of conviction, they added.
As many as 3,500 cases were filed over human trafficking after the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act was enforced in 2012.
Of them, a few cases have, so far, been disposed of, convicting only 30 criminals of human trafficking.
Most of the victims are being deprived of justice due to loopholes in laws, anti-trafficking campaigners said.
They also said human traffickers are influential, so they can escape punishment.
The low conviction rate is resulting in the increase in human trafficking across the country, they observed.
National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque suggested that the government shortlist 25 ‘godfathers’ of human traffickers for their immediate arrest.
The government is not doing much to check human trafficking, he alleged.
In 2016, police filed 677 cases over trafficking and arrested 1,361 suspects, but only three were convicted.
A total of 1,028 cases were lodged with 1,540 arrested in 2015, but only four were sentenced to different terms of imprisonment.
In 2014, a total of 682 cases were registered and 807 people arrested. Thirteen were convicted of the crime.
Several hundred cases filed over human trafficking are still pending with courts as their trial is going on at a snail’s pace, Executive Director of Bangladesh Women Lawyers Association Salma Ali said.
The BWLA filed the first case in 2013 with a Faridpur court, but its trial has not been completed yet.
Salma has blamed negligence of the government authorities for not taking necessary steps to enforce the law.
As per the law, a case over human trafficking should be disposed of within 180 days. But trial in most cases has been pending over years, court sources said.
They also said non-appearance of witnesses and negligence of prosecution lawyers and law enforcers in dealing with the cases are major reasons for delay in the trial.
Besides, investigators are not completing probes in many cases in time.
The country passed the anti-trafficking law in 2012. The law provides that an individual found guilty of human trafficking will get punishment ranging from minimum five years’ jail to maximum life imprisonment.
It also states that an organized gang of traffickers involved in the crime will get punishment ranging from minimum seven years’ imprisonment to maximum death penalty. Binoy Krishna Mallick, executive director of Rights Jessore, said traffickers were influential, so they are getting off scot-free.
Many victims returned home from Iraq, Thailand and Malaysia have been deprived of justice, he said.
“There is no proper enforcement of the law in the country,” he further said.
There was no justice of such cases in Bangladesh. But Thailand set an example by trying a former general in human trafficking case, said Al Amin Nayan, the national programme coordinator of Bhalobashi Bangladesh.
The government authorities should rehabilitate the victims, but there was no significant development in the rehabilitation programme, he added.
On July 19, former Thai General Manas Kongpan was sentenced to 27 years in jail in Bangkok for trafficking Bangladeshis Rohingya Muslims in a landmark judgement.
Fifty-nine others were convicted of the same crime in the same case in Thailand.
Jabed Ahmed, additional secretary of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, said the government has taken many steps to check human trafficking.
He has stressed the need for more coordination between ministries to fight the crime.