US TIP Report is inaccurate – TIP Task Force

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TipThe Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons (MTFTIP) in its response to the United States [US] Department’s Report on trafficking in persons in Guyana stated that the Report has not reviewed Guyana fairly and therefore attracts little merit on the part of the Government of Guyana.

In a press statement today, the Task Force said that the report contains several inaccuracies and misrepresentations with regard to the scope of trafficking in persons in Guyana.

“Further, the Report ignores the efforts of the Government of Guyana in combating trafficking in persons.”

In its 2013 report, the US revealed that Guyana is recorded as both a source and destination for men, women and children being subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, placing Guyana on the Tier 2 Watch List.

The report stated, “Guyanese and foreign women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution in Guyana, and some nationals have been trafficked abroad. It is clear that traffickers are attracted to Guyana’s interior mining communities, where there is limited government control.”

 Below is the Task Force’s Response to the Report:

The Ministerial Task Force considers it necessary to respond to a number of misrepresentations raised in the US Report.

  1. 1.     “According to a media report in November 2012, a child was murdered while working in the mines, and reports linked his death to his attempt to collect wages due to him.”

While theGovernment of Guyana has established that the child was indeed sadly murdered, it is of the view that the US Report has not provided a shred of evidence to link the child’s death to the offence of trafficking in persons. We repudiate most emphatically the inclusion of this homicide case in the USTrafficking in Persons report in order to ‘sex up’ the Report.

The US Report further states that:

  1. “Indonesian workers were subjected to forced labor on several Guyanese-flagged fishing boats off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago during the reporting period.”

The Government of Guyana considers this claim as spurious since it falls completely outside the jurisdiction of Guyana.  The Government of Guyana has no knowledge of this matter whatsoever and considers it a brazen attempt on the part of the US State Department to resort to an extraterritorial issue in an effort to bring some degree of credence to a Report that is riddled with fabrications.Further by including this matter without providing information on it to the Government of Guyana, the USState Department has contravened an agreement between US Embassy Officials and Ministers of the Task Force to share information on trafficking in persons.

The US Report goes on to state that:

  1. “The Government of Guyana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so.”

The Government of Guyana strictly adheres to and upholds the minimum standards of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and its own “Combating Trafficking in Persons Act No. 2 of 2005”.  Guyana, as a sovereign nation, is not a signatory of the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act; consequently is not required to follow that act.

The US Report claims that:

  1. “the government failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable with jail time over the previous reporting period”

The Government of Guyana wishes to reiterate that it has told the US Government on numerous occasions that it has no control over the Judiciary and the Magistracy. Further, the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) Chambers is a Public Office whose independence is preserved in the constitution. The long established practice has been that the Guyana Police Force investigates and submits the case files to the DPP and the DPP in turn would advise on whether charges are to be laid or not or if the matter should  be tried summarily.

The decision to convict or not is one exclusively for the Court.  Reiterating for emphasis, the Government of Guyana does not hold persons accountable with jail time, the court does.  The tangible role for Government is to ensure that the relevant legislation is in place and in this regard it has passed a very comprehensive Trafficking in Persons Act.

The US Report argues:

  1. “The government…reported the initiation of seven sex trafficking prosecutions. It was unclear if the one prosecution documented in the previous reporting period was included in this figure.”

As far as the Government of Guyana is concerned each of the seven (7) sex trafficking Prosecutions that took place during the reporting period are reflected in the Report. The one (1) prosecution documented in the previous reporting period was not included.

Again, the US Report States:

  1. “The great majority of prosecutions initiated in other reporting periods were dismissed when the prosecutors were unable to proceed, usually because witnesses declined to testify.”

The Government of Guyana is aware that it is not uncommon throughout the world for witnesses to decline to testify. Prospective witnesses cannot be forced to testify. Guyana is not unique in this respect.  It is an individual’s right to be able to decide whether or not he/she wants to testify in a Court case.  Essentially, what matters is the expeditious dispensing of trials so as to facilitate the ready availability of witnesses to testify.

According to the US Report

  1. “The government reported no convictions of sex or labor trafficking offenders.”

Again, this is a matter that falls squarely within the purview of the Courts.  The Government of Guyana cannot report convictions if there were none made by the Courts.  At the same time, the Government cannot dictate to the Courts whether to convict or not.

The US Report States:

  1. “The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for complicity in trafficking-related offences during the reporting period.”

In 2012, there were no such cases thus the Government of Guyana cannot report on complicity; neither would the Government manufacture charges against its public officers so as to satisfy a report.

According to the US Report:

  1.  “Stakeholders reported that the lack of transparent public standard operating procedures for handling trafficking cases was an obstacle to progress.”

The Government of Guyana views this claim as an unadulterated falsehood.  There exists standard operating procedures (SOPs) and these are being applied nationally.  The SOPs are currently being updated.

In an effort to appear magnanimous, the US Report states:

 

  1. “The government made efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period by identifying and assisting trafficking victims, but these efforts were hindered by the lack of accountability for perpetrators of human trafficking.”

The Government of Guyana considers this another blatant falsehood.  All reports of trafficking in persons are investigated, charges are instituted based on the evidence and the Courts decide on the culpability of the alleged perpetrator.  The Government of Guyana has passed stringent legislation on trafficking in persons and has put in place the institutional arrangements to ensure that perpetrators are answerable for their crimes.

The Report mentions:

  1.  “The government did not provide specialized care for adult male victims but reported that men received similar access to care services offered to female victims.”

This is a falsehood. Specialized care is indeed provided for alleged victims of trafficking, whether male or female.

Further, in its Report, the US State Department claims:

  1.  “Longer term shelter and protection was not available in Guyana, putting victims at risk of traffickers’ reprisals since the government also failed to punish most trafficking offenders with incarceration.”

The Government of Guyana wishes to make it known that Guyana has never had an experience where a person who was allegedly trafficked suffered reprisal.  However, there is provision for long term shelter and protection for alleged victims of trafficking in persons, if they so request. Long term shelter is provided by Help and Shelter.

 

The US Report says:

  1.  “Officials reportedly encouraged victims to participate in the prosecution of trafficking offenders; however, backlogs throughout the court system and delays increased the likelihood that victims would become discouraged and cease cooperation as witnesses in trafficking prosecutions.”

In accordance with its policy, the Government will continue to encourage victims to participate in the prosecution of trafficking offenders; however, we repeat the fact that the Government of Guyana has no control over backlogs and delays within the Court system.

 

As regards to the recommendations in the US State Department Report, the Government of Guyana wishes to respond as follows:

 

In respect of recommendation (1) that the Government should

Boost efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable by vigorously and appropriately investigating and prosecuting forced prostitution and forced labor

The Government of Guyana is being as vigorous as it can be in investigating allegations of trafficking in persons. The Government as a matter of policy and law does not encourage or condone trafficking in persons. Moreover, the Government of Guyana possesses the appropriate mechanisms to respond to trafficking in persons and will continue to robustly make efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable.

 

In respect to recommendation (20 viz.: that Government should

In partnership with NGOs, develop standard operating procedures to guide and encourage frontline officials, including police, health, immigration, labor, mining, and forestry personnel in the identification and protection of victims of forced labor and forced prostitution, ensuring that victims are not punished for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking

The Government of Guyana is open to partnering with NGOs. This policy has been publicly made clear on numerous occasions. The US Embassy should provide the evidence where the Government of Guyana is unwilling to engage in partnership with NGOs in combating trafficking in persons.

Further, encouragement and training of frontline officials is an ongoing process in accordance with the National Action Plan for the Ministerial Task Force.

In addition, Government has a policy on victim protection by which it is guided.

 

The US Report further recommends that Government should:

  1. 1.     Offer protection and assistance for victims near mining communities

The Government of Guyana wishes to reiterate that once a report of trafficking in person is received, whether it is on the coastland or the interior, protection and assistance are offered to victims. This is done on a routine basis.

 

Finally, concerning the recommendation that Government should:

Investigate and hold accountable the perpetrators of forced labour on Guyanese- flagged vessels; and foster a climate of open dialogue on trafficking and encouraging people to come forward to authorities on potential cases

The Government of Guyana reaffirms that Trafficking in Persons is discussed publicly in Guyana and no attempt is made to prohibit this. There is a Trafficking in Persons hotline number (592-227-4083) that has been publicly advertised and persons are encouraged to call. It is not mandatory for the caller to give their personal information.

Moreover, there are debates in the National Assembly, live television and radio call in programmes as well as newspaper reports which feature aspects of trafficking in persons, the basic objective being to sensitize the populace.  As far as the Government is concerned there is nothing to hide.  Guyana is not a closed society where these matters are kept secret.  An analysis may well show that the amount of resources expended on this issue is disproportionate to the scale of the problem.

 

In conclusion, the Ministerial Task Force is of the firm view that there is no excuse for the US State Department’s Report to ignore the gains made by Guyana in addressing Trafficking in Persons. The Task Force views the Report as lacking credibility and therefore rejects the Report.

 

The Government of Guyana regrets that the US Embassy, though it requests every year responses of the Government of Guyana to a questionnaire on TIPs, does not accurately reflect these responses in its Annual Report. Consequently, the Government of Guyana wishes to make it clear that in future such questionnaires will not be completed and returned to the US authorities.

 

The Government of Guyana stands committed to the fight against trafficking in Persons in Guyana and calls upon all stakeholders in particular, and Guyanese as a whole to join in the fight against Trafficking in Persons.