NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 12- Loopholes in the criminal justice system in Kenya and the globe are to blame for the increasing cases of human trafficking and organized crime, Attorney General Githu Muigai has said.
In the case of Kenya, he says the laws are meant to punish victims of human trafficking instead of the perpetrators.
Speaking during a one-day seminar on The Fight Against Human Trafficking and International Crimes on Wednesday, the AG said Kenya remains a transit route due to its unique geographical positioning, stability and Infrastructure development.
“Historically, we did not make a distinction between the victim and the perpetrator. Right now, we have just made that transition and our concern now is how to ensure we protect the victim,” he asserted.
“We appreciate the people who are in Kenya illegally in the process of being exploited or being taken to other countries are victims and we owe them some protection.”
Statistics from the International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 millions victims of human trafficking globally where 68 percent of them are trapped in forced Labour, 26 percent of them are children while 55 percent are women and girls.
According to the AG, the main challenge remains getting the real perpetrator since they “remote control” their activities.
“No single country can get a hold of this problem by its own. This is a crisis of monumental proportion particularly because it targets the most vulnerable members of our society: Children and women,” he stated.
“We must also keep in mind, that for Kenya to be useful to the international justice system, we must be coherent ourselves.”
Transnational crimes such as piracy, narcotics and human trafficking, terrorism, smuggling and trade in illicit wildlife trophies have been on the rise as well, he stated.
In Africa, he noted that the main reason for human trafficking is forced labour, sex exploitation and terrorism.
“Victims are usually from countries going through civil strife, mostly from poor backgrounds,” he pointed out. “But the networks of international organized crimes are very closely linked.
– DRUG TRAFFICKING –
Also present during the seminar was the Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, who noted that there has been, “an exponential increase in drug trafficking and the attendant increasing drug abuse in the country.”
She said Kenya is now a major transit hub for illicit drugs with an increasing domestic user population.
“It was telling that over a tonne of heroin, the biggest cache of drugs ever impounded in Africa, was netted by the Australian Navy off the coast of Kenya in 2014,” she said.
A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), she pointed out, estimates that East Africa’s governments lose over the US$500 million in tax revenue annually due to the influx of counterfeit and pirated products, which is part of the transnational crime.
Again, she noted that Kenya is at the centre of illicit trade in counterfeit goods and other illegal commodities in the region,” and is a major distribution point to the surrounding countries and a significant market for counterfeit goods and contraband from around the globe.”
To illustrate the impact, she quoted a recent report which found that more than 30 percent of the total medicines sold in Kenya are counterfeit and that about 40 percent of all malaria drugs in the country market are fake.
“Human trafficking and smuggling is basically modern day slavery,” she said.
Kenya is a source of transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking, she said.
“Victims are forced into domestic servitude, massage parlours or brothels or forced into manual labour,” the deputy CJ said.
– ILLEGAL FIREARMS –
On illegal firearms, Mwilu cited the annual report to Parliament by President Uhuru Kenyatta that said there are over 650,000 illegal firearms in circulation in the country.
She said the scourge of trafficking in small arms and light weapons across the East and Horn of Africa, continues to contribute insecurity and violence in the region.
“Beyond increasing insecurity in our urban and rural areas, alarming incidents such as the killing of over 30 police officers in Baragoi in 2012 and the continued deaths,” she stated.
To reverse the trend, she said the Judiciary is set to ensure that, “we have the necessary physical infrastructure and human resource across the country and particularly in identified hotspots, to deal with these matters.”
“The Judiciary is producing noteworthy jurisprudence in the adjudication of these crimes as was evinced in the decisions in regard to the jurisdiction to hear cases involving the offence of piracy irrespective of the place of its commission or the nationalities of its perpetrators or victims.”
She called for international collaborative approaches to dealing with the menace.
“Weak law enforcement, corruption and inadequate sanctions and legislation, are amongst the key contributing factors that facilitate human trafficking and international organized crimes,” she lamented.
“These crimes have an impact on business and the economy, public health and safety, national security, and weaken the rule of law and the democratic fibre of our society.”
– SENSITISING THE POLICE –
Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro on his part said police need to be sensitised on how to deal with cases of human trafficking and transnational crime.
Often, he said police deal with victims as illegal immigrants instead of the real problem.
Also present was the District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan among other key players in the international criminal justice system.