19 additional convicts receive prison terms for human trafficking

The High Court has sentenced 19 more individuals to prison terms ranging from three to 13 years for their involvement in trafficking 200 Bhutanese women to Iraq and Oman in 2020. They were convicted recently. This decision adds to the previous sentencing of six women in the same case last year. Among the 19 is a couple who received a 13-year sentence for deceiving 44 Bhutanese women with false promises of overseas employment opportunities in the Middle East.

The recruitment of over 200 women was carried out by overseas employment agents operating without a licence from the former Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.

According to the Department of Law and Order, upon arrival at their destinations, the victims were handed over to local agents, confined to restricted spaces, and had their passports seized.

Subsequently, they were forced to work as domestic maids.

“With regard to the victims who became perpetrators themselves, I think they know what trafficking in person is. They know how they are being exploited in a foreign land. So, when they become a perpetrator themselves, I think they need to be treated with more legal sanction, in my view,” said Karma Dorji, officiating director general of the Department of Law and Order.

He added that gathering evidence is a big challenge while investigating trafficking in persons.

Of the 30 suspects investigated in connection with the crime, 25 culprits have received sentencing so far. A few cases were dropped citing lack of evidence.

According to the Department of Law and Order, the government has spent about Nu 500 M in repatriation efforts to bring back the 200 women from the Middle East.

According to the Penal Code of Bhutan, Trafficking in Persons is a fourth-degree felony with a prison term of three to five years.

Similarly, unregistered illegal recruitment services or employment agencies can face fines of up to Nu 6,00,000.

Meanwhile, Bhutan is a signatory to several international conventions that combat human trafficking.

“As far as international effort is concerned, we have joined many international mechanisms, such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and we have ratified the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. We are a party to the SAARC Convention on Human Trafficking. We are also in the process of ratifying the BIMSTEC Convention against Trafficking in Persons,” added the officiating director general of the Department of Law and Order.

He added that it is essential for every Bhutanese to be vigilant about illegal and unregistered overseas employment schemes.

Sonam Dhendup

Edited by Sherub Dorji

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