Friday, June 26, 2009

Rhode Island passes two bills to strengthen laws against sex trafficking

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The House and Senate Thursday night approved two separate bills to strengthen the law against sex-trafficking minors.

The House, by a vote of 66-to-0, approved a bill (H-5661 Sub A) introduced by Rep. Joanne M. Giannini, D-Providence.

The Senate voted 34 to 0 to approve a separate bill (S-605 Sub A) introduced by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence.

One identical bill must pass both the House and Senate to become law.

"At least we have a chance it will pass,'' Kimberly Harris, co-chair of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking, said after the vote. "I 'm grateful that both bills passed today ... and I hope the same spirit of compromise will continue when the leadership combines both bills."

The two bills -- both designed to strengthen the 2007 law against sex-trafficking -- differ in several key respects.

Giannini's bill covers trafficking of forced labor for work that doesn't involve sex.
Perry's bill includes a provision -- not included in Rep. Gianinni's bill -- that would create a trafficking-in-persons task force to develop an assessment protocol for identifying victims of trafficking.

The task force, to be headed by the Rhode Island Commission on Women, would include members of law enforcement, representatives from the state health and labor departments, as well as victims' advocates and the director of the National Association of Social Workers.

Original Story from The Providence Journal.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Three Chinese men sentenced in Ghana for human trafficking

Accra, June 23, GNA - A Circuit Court in Accra on Monday found three Chinese who were busted for transporting and trafficking 10 Chinese girls to engage in the sex trade in Ghana, guilty and handed down various jail terms on them.

James Xu Jin, 41, who is believed to be the ring leader and night club operator, was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment, San Shan Ying, a housewife and Chou Xiu Ying, a night club operator, had 12 years each. They were facing charges of conspiracy and human trafficking. Ying was additionally charged with abetment of crime.

The court presided over by Mrs. Elizabeth Ankomah revoked the resident permit for James and ordered that all the money found on the accused persons be paid into the Human Trafficking Fund. The court, however, ordered that the money retrieved from the victims should be returned to them. The convicts after serving the sentences are to be deported to China.

During the four-month trial the prosecution called 10 witnesses to make its case, while the defence called one witness. Summing up its judgment, the court noted that the prosecution had been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. It held that James and Sam engaged in human trafficking by obtaining tickets and other travelling documents for the victims and through deceits, lured them to Ghana to work in a restaurant, which never existed.

According to the court the victims on their arrival had their passports and other travelling documents confiscated by James who in turn threatened, deceived and exploited their vulnerability. According to the court proceeds of the sex trade were used to purchase contraceptives, douches and other materials to facilitate their trade.

It dismissed claims by the convicts that the victims and other Chinese nationals meet at the restaurants to sing. "During the singing that was when the men selected the victims for sex," the court noted. It therefore concluded that the convicts through their intentions induced the victims into sex trade and declined to give them their travelling documents as well as proceed from the sex trade.

The court wondered how James who never operated the restaurant, slept during the day and turned up in the casinos could purchase a vehicle within a short period. "James never operated a restaurant in the country rather a brothel. Even the said restaurant named James Golden Gate Restaurant was to be located on the Accra Winneba Road and not La in Accra," the court observed.

The court said James designed the living room of the house to look like that of a restaurant and stocked a refrigerator with drinks and had two separate rooms used for the sex trade. It noted that James misrepresented to the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) that his house located in La, was being used as a Restaurant.

According to the court James could not provide even books (Menu Chart) to show that it was a restaurant. It pointed out that even at the GIPC, San claimed to be James wife but she was not.

Citing witnesses' evidence to buttress its point, the court noted the convicts and victims, who contended that they operated a restaurant, were rather seen by neighbours with food in take away packs. In the case of Chou, the court established that he abetted the crime, since he acted as an interpreter. He sat at the entrance of the two rooms, which served as the brothel and sometimes took money on James' behalf.

Mr D.O. K. Johnson who represented the accused in his prayer for mitigation contended they were law abiding citizens and first offenders who should be given the minimum sentence. Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mary Agbozo, the prosecutor, had said the Police had information that some Chinese nationals had trafficked a number of Chinese ladies to Ghana for sexual exploitation.

Consequently, on February 14, a group of Police officers from the Criminal Investigations Department led other police personnel to the house of the three accused persons at La in Accra. The prosecution said when the police went to the house they rescued seven of the victims, adding that, the whereabouts of three of them were unknown. A search conducted in the house revealed condoms, contraceptives, a wooden carved male organ and other medications and various sums of money, some of which belonged to the victims.

The Police impounded a Toyota saloon car, with registration number GE 9314 W believed to have been used in transporting the victims for the sex trade.

ASP Agbozo said investigations revealed that James and San Shan, a couple, transported the victims from China while Chou sent the victims to their respective clients.

The prosecution said one of the victims, Tin Tin, who could speak English, told them that James and San Shan brought them to Ghana and were paid 150 dollars on their return from their rounds.

Original Story from Ghana News Agency

Friday, June 19, 2009

Honolulu Man and Woman Indicted on Federal Sex Trafficking Charges

WASHINGTON, June 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Justice Department today announced that a federal grand jury in the District of Hawaii has indicted Rodney D. King, 43, and Sharon-Mae Nishimura, 30, both of Honolulu, on multiple counts of federal sex trafficking of adult women and minor female victims.

The charges include allegations of sex trafficking of three adult victims. Specifically, the indictment alleges that from periods within April 2006 through June 2007, King used force, fraud and coercion to engage two adult women in commercial sex and that he did so for his own financial benefit. The indictment also alleges that King attempted to engage a third adult woman in commercial sex in October 2007 by using force, fraud and coercion; and that Nishimura aided and abetted him in that attempt. If convicted of any of these counts, King and Nishimura would each face a sentence of imprisonment for a period of 15 years to life.

Two minor girls were also victimized. The indictment alleges that King engaged one of the minor girls in commercial sex acts from September 2007 through December 2007. It also charges both King and Nishimura with the December 2007 sex trafficking of a second minor victim, alleging that they knew both that the victim was a minor; and that force, fraud and coercion would be used to engage the victim in commercial sex acts. The indictment further charges King and Nishimura with conspiring to engage this 16-year old victim in commercial sex acts. The indictment states that, as a means of inducing her compliance, King provided this teenager with access to crystal methamphetamines.

For conviction of either of the counts of sex trafficking of minors, King and Nishimura would each face a sentence of imprisonment for a period of 10 years to life. For conviction of the crime of conspiracy, each would face a sentence of up to five years in prison. King and Nishimura each also face fines of up to $250,000 per count of conviction. An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division trial attorney Kayla Bakshi with the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren Ching for the District of Hawaii. The continuing investigation of this case is being conducted by the FBI with the assistance of the Honolulu Police Department and the Hawaii Department of Public Safety Sheriff Division.

Human trafficking prosecutions are a top priority of the Justice Department. In Fiscal Year 2008, the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney's Offices filed a record number of criminal civil rights cases, including record numbers of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking cases.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recession causes increase in human trafficking

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The global financial crisis has increased the worldwide trade in trafficked persons, says a State Department report released Tuesday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the report aims "to shine the light brightly on ... modern slavery."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the report aims "to shine the light brightly on ... modern slavery."

The State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report also says trafficking has increased in Africa and slaps six African nations on a blacklist of countries not meeting the minimum standard of combating trafficking.

The report, mandated by Congress, features data and statistics from 175 countries around the world regarding the amount of human trafficking that goes on within their borders.

The report cites the International Labor Organization, which estimates that at least 12.3 million adults and children are victims of forced labor, bonded labor and sex slavery each year.

"This is modern slavery. A crime that spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as she announced the report. "With this report, we hope to shine the light brightly on the scope and scale of modern slavery, so all governments can see where progress has been made and where more is needed."

The report says the global economic crisis is boosting the demand for human trafficking because of a growing demand for cheap goods and services.

"A striking global demand for labor and a growing supply of workers willing to take ever greater risks for economic opportunities seem a recipe for increased forced labor cases of migrant workers and women in prostitution," it says.

It predicts that the economic crisis will push more businesses underground to avoid taxes and unionized labor, which will increase the use of forced, cheap and child labor by cash-strapped multinational companies.

African countries Nigeria and Mauritius are praised in the report for making strong efforts to combat trafficking.

But six African nations -- Chad, Eritrea, Mauritania, Niger, Swaziland and Zimbabwe -- were put on the report's "Tier 3" blacklist of countries whose efforts to combat trafficking are inadequate.

Most of the countries are "source" and "destination" countries, the report says, meaning trafficking victims both come from and are sent there. Most are trafficked throughout Africa, but many end up in the Middle East, it says.

Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria remain on the blacklist for another year, with the report saying they often become a destination for trafficked persons who are sold into domestic servitude. Other repeat offenders on the list include North Korea, Myanmar and Fiji.

The State Department also put Malaysia in the Tier 3 list, because of its trafficking of Burmese refugees.

The report cites information that Malaysian immigration officials sold refugees to traffickers operating along its border with Thailand. When the victims were unable to pay a ransom demanded by the traffickers, the report says, they were sold for labor and commercial sex exploitation.

The blacklisted countries are subject to U.S. sanctions if they don't make greater efforts to fight trafficking.

The Philippines, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Pakistan were added to a "watch list" because of what the report calls a worsening trafficking record in those countries. The 52 countries on the watch list have failed to to meet the minimum anti-trafficking standards but are making efforts to do so.

For the first time, countries that have been on the watch list for two years -- including China, Russia, India, Sri Lanka and Egypt -- will automatically be moved to the Tier 3 blacklist next year without a presidential waiver if they fail improve their trafficking record, the State Department said.

This year, the Justice Department also put out a report on U.S. efforts to combat trafficking efforts at home. In 2008, the FBI opened 132 trafficking investigations, made 139 arrests and obtained 94 convictions.

Clinton invited to Tuesday's event members of Congress who are active on the issue, as well as global advocates for trafficking victims, in an effort to give the issue a higher profile and shine a spotlight on the need to combat it.

Calling for a renewed worldwide partnership between countries and non-governmental organizations to combat trafficking, Clinton said, "Trafficking thrives in the shadows, and it can be easy to dismiss it as something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. But that's not the case.

"Trafficking is a crime that involves every nation on Earth, and that includes our own," she said, calling trafficking a "grave problem" in the United States.

For the first time, she said, the United States next year will rank its own efforts at combating trafficking along with the rest of the world. She expressed hope that it will be on the Tier 1 list of countries that are making robust efforts.

Original Story from CNN

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cambodian police abuse victims of trafficking

The traffic police

’Tis a pity, but she won’t go away

PHNOM PEN-- In eerie, deserted silence Hon the outskirts of Phnom Penh sits the Prey Speu detention centre. Barely legible on its grimy walls a few weeks ago were cries for help and whispers of despair from the tormented souls once crammed into its grimy cells. “This is to mark that I lived in terror under oppression,” read one message.

It recalls a Khmer Rouge torture centre from the genocidal 1970s. But in fact the building was used just last year as a “rehabilitation” centre, where detained sex-workers, along with beggars and the homeless, learnt sewing and cooking. They were rounded up in a crackdown on trafficking for the sex industry. At first an attempt to clean up Phnom Penh, it soon escalated into a violent campaign by the police against prostitutes and those living on the street. According to Licadho, a local human-rights group, guards at the centre beat three people to death, and at least five detainees killed themselves. Sreymoa, a trafficked sex-worker, detained in May 2008 with her four-year-old daughter, recalls daily beatings, rapes and one death.

Partly to allay the previous American administration’s concerns about trafficking, Cambodia in February 2008 outlawed prostitution. Three months later the State Department took Cambodia off its annual “watch-list” of human-trafficking countries. But the police read the law as entitling them to lock up all sex-workers, not help victims of trafficking.

Reports of abuses soon surfaced, at first denied by the government. But in August it halted the raids as the United Nations and NGOs expressed mounting concern. One worry was that they would endanger HIV/AIDS-prevention programmes. The prevalence of HIV in Cambodia had fallen to 0.8% of the population since the government adopted a campaign in 2001 for “100% condom” use. Now, however, fearing the brothels where they worked would be raided, many sex-workers had started plying their trade on the streets or in karaoke bars, where health-care workers could not find them to distribute condoms.

Tony Lisle, of the UN’s AIDS organisation, says that since the raids stopped, HIV-prevention efforts have resumed with more success. Sex-workers in bars as well as brothels are to be covered, and the police to be encouraged to teach sex-workers about condom use. But those campaigning for sex-workers’ rights have objected, fearing that this might give the police a pretext to renew the raids. Jason Barber of Licadho says that for years the government has stopped arbitrary detentions when a fuss has been made, only to restart them as soon as attention has shifted.

Indeed, just before a regional summit in Phnom Penh in late May, the police again herded up beggars, sex-workers and drug-users, and sent them back to Prey Speu, newly reopened (with the graffiti painted over). Detaining sex-workers is much easier than arresting the traffickers. But the global slowdown is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. The World Bank forecasts that 200,000 Cambodians will fall below the poverty line this year. Many will fall into prostitution or beggary, whatever the law says and high-minded donors hope.

Orignial Article from: The Economist

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

California Senate approves new bill to fight human trafficking

SACRAMENTO – The California Senate approved two major bills authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) to assist domestic violence victims and combat human trafficking. SB 782 would prevent landlords from unfairly evicting victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. SB 557 would allow courts to seize any property, such as house or automobile, of a person convicted of human trafficking and used in the commission of the crime.

Stopping Unfair Evictions

SB 782 is modeled after a San Francisco ordinance authored by Supervisor Carmen Chu and sponsored by District Attorney Kamala Harris, which passed in February.

"It is unconscionable to force a domestic violence victim from their home," said Yee. "Evicting a survivor of domestic violence not only results in being re-victimized, but unfairly strains a family attempting to recover. The possibility of eviction discourages women from coming forward to report incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault. If a victim wants to stay in his or her home, they should be allowed that opportunity and should not face added pressures of moving or possible homelessness."

Under current law, if a victim determines he or she must relocate to a safe environment, he or she can petition the court to break his/her lease without penalty. However, the reverse option is not currently available in jurisdictions besides San Francisco. The result is that many landlords force victims to leave their homes under a nuisance clause in their rental agreement.

SB 782 would allow a tenant to petition the court to stay in their homes if issued an eviction notice based primarily on the acts of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. In order to be eligible, tenants must have written documentation by a qualified third party (such as a police officer, therapist or licensed clinical social worker) substantiating the abuse. Tenants would still be subject to all the terms of their lease and landlords would be able to evict the perpetrator.

"This bill extends important tenant rights to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking," said Emily Murase, Executive Director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. "Victims will no longer be subject to eviction based on noise, police activity, or other complaints. These evictions had the adverse effect of discouraging women from coming forward against their batterers and pursuers. We need to encourage, not discourage, women to step forward."

Combating Human Trafficking

In addition to the courts seizing property of those convicted of human trafficking, SB 557 would add civil penalties of up to $25,000.

"SB 557 will bring much-needed resources to help fight human trafficking, while also ensuring victims receive the services they need to recover from this horrific crime," said Yee. "Between 14,500 and 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States each year and enslaved for purposes of sexual or labor exploitation, and unfortunately many of the cases occur here in California. Our state has led the way in combating human trafficking and exploitation, but we should not stop our efforts until all women, men, and children are free and safe from such an appalling offense."

Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders worldwide, according to the US Department of State. Victims are generally trafficked into the US from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. Many human trafficking victims do not understand English and are therefore isolated and often unable to communicate with service providers, law enforcement and others who might be able to help them.

Research by the Human Rights Center at the University of California found 57 forced labor operations between 1998 and 2003 throughout California. These operations – mostly in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose – involved more than 500 victims from 18 countries.

The US Department of Justice recently announced that in the first 21 months of operation, the Human Trafficking Reporting System (HTRS) recorded information on more than 1,200 alleged incidents of human trafficking.

According to the Justice Department, over 90 percent of victims in both alleged and confirmed human trafficking incidents were female. Nearly 60 percent of victims in labor trafficking cases were female and almost all (99%) victims in sex trafficking cases were female.

Hispanic victims comprised the largest share (37 percent) of alleged sex trafficking victims and more than half (56 percent) of alleged labor trafficking victims. Asians made up 10 percent of alleged sex trafficking victims, compared to 31 percent of labor trafficking victims. Approximately two-thirds of victims in alleged human trafficking incidents were age 17 or younger (27 percent) or age 18 to 24 (38 percent). Sex trafficking victims tended to be younger (71 percent were under age 25) and labor trafficking victims tended to be older (almost 70 percent were age 25 or older).

Nearly eight in 10 human trafficking suspects were male. US citizens accounted for 66 percent of suspects in alleged incidents.

SB 782 and SB 557 will now be considered by the State Assembly.

If you are a victim of domestic violence or if you want to report an incident of domestic violence, call the 24-hour-a-day toll-free National Hotline at 1-(800) 799-SAFE or 1-(800) 787-3224 (TDD).

If you are a victim of trafficking or an organization needing assistance, please contact the Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Original story from California Chronicle