FSM making strides to combat human trafficking

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
October 26, 2016
FSM—For the third year in a row, the United States Trafficking in Persons report has listed the FSM’s efforts to curb the crime of human trafficking at Tier 2.
“The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report says.
During the reporting period the FSM had successfully prosecuted one man from Chuuk who supplied Chuukese girls to “The Blue House” in Guam under false pretenses. When the crimes took place, Human Trafficking laws were not in place in the FSM. He was convicted under criminal civil rights provisions, as the crimes occurred before passage of the national anti-trafficking law. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment to be served under probationary house arrest, due to the trafficker’s need for special accommodations not available in the correctional facility.

The FSM government initiated five new investigations of suspected child sex trafficking during the reporting period, compared with two in 2014. Three of those investigations, involving a total of seven suspected sex traffickers, were filed with the FSM Supreme Court and are pending a trial date. Currently there is one human trafficking case that is being heard by the FSM Supreme Court in Chuuk.
A recent prosecution attempt in Pohnpei was not successful. The court was forced to throw out a good portion of the testimony and evidence presented during the case, including testimony taken without Miranda rights having been read. Prosecutors also inexplicably excluded the audio from an alleged victim’s testimony and had an officer narrate what was being said. The court ruled that evidence as hearsay. What was left was insufficient for a conviction.
A family member of one of the people who was charged in that matter opined that Pohnpei was only prosecuting the case to make the U.S. happy.
It’s not an uncommon reaction.
A Radio New Zealand report on the US’s abysmal evaluation of Papua New Guinea’s efforts to end human trafficking ended up on social media. The US State Department has rated those efforts at the lowest on the scale for all but one of the years since the report began to be issued.
The very first comment on the social media posting was from a PNG national.
“They are in no place to pass moral judgement,” he wrote.
“Look at the farce they call ‘Presidential Elections’. For goodness sakes - they have a man running for POUSA (POTUS) who openly stated if his daughter wasn’t related to him he would try to have sex with her. These are the type(s) of people they back to run for President and they want to criticize other countries. No one is saying it is right if is happening - but get the Hell Down Off That High Horse!!!! How dare they - Hypocrisy.”
The US rates itself at Tier 1 which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a problem with human trafficking but that it is using its much more significant resources to try to combat the problem.
“The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, transgender individuals, and children— both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals— subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Trafficking occurs in both legal and illicit industries, including in commercial sex, hospitality, sales crews, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, janitorial services, construction, restaurants, health and elder care, salon services, fairs and carnivals, peddling and begging, and domestic service. Individuals who entered the United States with and without legal status have been identified as trafficking victims,” the report says.
“I think rather than reacting angrily to reports we should review what can be done to address the issues raised,” Gary Juffa of the PNG wrote. Juffa was elected as governor of Oro Province, PNG in 2012 and is the Leader of the People’s Movement for Change Party (PMCP). He has been an extremely outspoken critic against corruption in the PNG government.
“Our problem is...though we have the laws...we have an enforcement mechanism that is too weak, has little to no capacity and there is certainly no political will. Nothing at all (in terms of law enforcement efforts on Human Trafficking) is going on as far as I know,” he wrote.
“Sadly our problem is not the laws or even lack of capacity and general ignorance but the apathy of elected officials...there simply isn’t anyone who cares in any position of real power,” Juffa concluded.
The FSM National Government and each of the four FSM States have laws that provide significant jail terms that should be sufficient to serve as a deterrent to the crime of Human Trafficking but all of the laws allow for a judge to decide to instead issue a sentence of a fine. The report says that a “fine” penalty is not proportionate to the severity of the crime committed and not sufficiently stringent.
“The national law prescribes penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for adult trafficking and 30 years’ imprisonment for child trafficking, or fines up to $50,000,” the report says. “Pohnpei State’s law prohibits sex trafficking of children and forced labor of adults, but not sex trafficking of adults; it prescribes penalties for these crimes of up to 10 years’ imprisonment or fines up to $10,000, or both. Chuuk State’s law includes the same prohibitions, but prescribes penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for forced labor, 25 years’ imprisonment for child trafficking, or fines up to $10,000, or both. Kosrae State’s law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of 10 years’ imprisonment or fines up to $20,000, or both. Yap State’s law prohibits all form of trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment or fines up to $1,000,000, or both.