A large number of migrants are falling victims to human trafficking every year but the low conviction rate in trafficking cases is encouraging the traffickers to continue such evil acts in the country.
Victims and migration sector experts have blamed slow pace of investigation and trial for poor rate of conviction.
On May 1 in 2015, a mass grave of migrants was found in the deep forests of Thailand where bodies of at least 10 Bangladeshis were recovered.
The government repatriated 175 victims of human trafficking from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia the same year.
Upon their return to the country, they filed three cases with Airport Police Station. The trafficking ring has been convicted in a trial in Thailand. However, justice is still pending in Bangladesh.
On May 26 last year, some 30 migrants were shot dead in Libya. Among them, 26 were Bangladeshis. On the night of June 2 last year, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) filed a case against 37 unidentified persons with Paltan Police Station. The investigation into the sensational case is yet to be finished.
These two cases are only the glimpses of so many cases of human trafficking in the country which have been stuck in the mud of slow investigation and judicial process.
And the law says, if proved guilty a perpetrator involved in the incidents of organised human trafficking will get death penalty or life imprisonment and a minimum of six years imprisonment and a fine of at least Tk 5 lakh.
But statistics makes it clear that neither the investigation nor the trial of human trafficking cases end within the law stipulated time. Rather a very few number of victims get justice in such cases as most accused of human trafficking cases take advantage of the weak investigation and slow pace of trial.
According to Brac Migration Programme, since the enactment of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012, a total of 5,738 human trafficking or smuggling related cases have been filed in the country where 21 percent victims are women and 11 percent children.
Only 71 perpetrators have been sentenced to different terms in some 36 cases. It means over 95 percent of the cases are pending and only 4 percent of the cases have been settled where the conviction rate is only 0.62 percent.
Consequently, traffickers are continuously spreading their dirty paw and making people victims of their greed. According to the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), Bangladeshis constitute 14.5 percent (3,332 persons), the highest number among the 47,425 refugees and migrants reaching Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, mostly through sea routes this year.
Besides, traffickers are now using different social media to allure young people to make them victims of trafficking to India and some Middle Eastern countries.
Asked about the lengthy investigation into the human trafficking cases, Saidur Rahman Khan, special superintendent of police (SSP) of Serious Crime Division of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), said, “Accused often provide wrong names and addresses, making it hard to identify them. The prolonged process of bringing the victims and accused from abroad makes it tough to complete investigation properly.”
“Despite filing cases, many victims do not cooperate with us during our investigation. Some of them try to settle the issue mutually,” he added.
Albeit the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 states about formation of a separate special tribunal for trials, the tribunal for the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children used to conduct the cases under the Human Trafficking Act earlier.
The government has taken eight years to form seven tribunals in seven divisions and appoint judges accordingly.
“The court has been functioning since last year. Many cases have been settled in the last 6 months though the rate of punishment is very low,” said Sajjadul Haque Shihab, Additional Public Prosecutor of the Dhaka Human Trafficking Crimes Tribunal.
“The main reason for this is the absence of witnesses in the court. In many cases, dates of appearance of witnesses were changed for over 50 times. In addition, the error of the investigation report is another problem. Sometimes, witnesses get compromised,” he added.
“No accused is convicted unless the crime is proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” the APP said, adding that the accused are getting benefits of this situation.