Brunei needs to strengthen human trafficking laws: ASEAN

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Brunei needs to strengthen human trafficking laws to better address victim protection and assistance, according to a report released by the ASEAN Commission on Women and Children (ACWC) this week.

Compiled by ACWC representatives from each ASEAN member state, the report provides an up-to-date assessment of the laws, policies and practices within ASEAN countries relating to human trafficking.

The ACWC said Brunei's Trafficking and Smuggling of Persons Order (TIP) does not have specific provisions for victim protection and assistance, however, issues such as victims’ privacy and support/ assistance mechanisms can be sought through the Women and Girls Protection Act or the Children and Young Persons Act.

Although the Royal Brunei Police Force has investigated hundreds of cases of suspected human trafficking since the TIP legislation was introduced in 2004, only a handful of cases have been prosecuted in court, resulting in three convictions.

The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has said this was due to a lack of strong evidence and victims being uncooperative in providing testimony because they were keen to return home.

The Criminal Procedure Code was amended earlier this year to allow video-link testimony from victims and witnesses who are minors, as well for other offences nominated in the code.

While some offences relating to women and children are included in the list, the TIP offence are not listed, said the ACWC.

In previous news reports, the AGC said it is currently reviewing the TIP legislations as part of efforts to improve laws combating trafficking in persons.

The ACWC report stated while Brunei’s legal framework does not provide victims a right to access remedies, the possibility of seeking compensation from the trafficker through court fines does exist.

“Where fines have been imposed following a successful prosecution of a trafficking case, the court may, upon the application of the public prosecutor, direct that the whole or any part of such fine — when recovered — be paid as compensation to the trafficked person,” the report stated.

The ACWC added that Brunei needs to look at improving policies regarding the return of victims to their home countries, as well as their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

The report said all governments have an obligation to formulate policies to prevent and address human trafficking: “To a degree, all ASEAN member states have undertaken prevention efforts such as public awareness raising campaigns, registering migrant or overseas-bound workers, and investigating unlawful practices of recruitment agencies and officials suspected of being involved in trafficking.”

According to the most recent published statistics, the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) investigated 183 cases of suspected human trafficking in 2013.

The Brunei Times