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April 30, 2016

ABA ROLI Helps Reach the First Conviction of a Trafficking Case in Haiti

On April 21, 2016, Chief Judge Vernet Simon of the First Instance Court of Hinche presided over the first trafficking in persons (“TIP”) case in Haiti. Féfète Rivière, the accused, was found guilty of attempted trafficking under provision 16 of the TIP legislation adopted in June 2014, and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. He was arrested near the Dominican Republic border, attempting to send a 16-year-old Haitian girl to work as a domestic servant. Jean René Michel, the chief prosecutor in this case, said “this first conviction in a TIP case sends a strong message around the country that TIP is a serious offense that will no longer go unpunished.” He publicly stated at the beginning of the trial that the case was “made possible by the trainings and mentoring provided by ABA ROLI.”

The judge sentenced the defendant to 5 years in prison, approximately $1,000 USD in punitive damages, and a fine of approximately $200 USD.

Members of the ABA ROLI team traveled to Hinche the day prior to this trial. They met with Chief Judge Simon and Chief Prosecutor Michel to provide advice for the trial. Together, they reviewed the key provisions of the law and discussed the issues at stake, including evidence and procedures. The accused was originally charged with trafficking in persons. The ABA ROLI representatives explained that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the accused for trafficking, and that the charge should instead be attempted trafficking in persons. This weakness in the case would certainly have been spotted by the accused’s three lawyers, and the accused would possibly have been found not guilty had the case gone forward with the original charge. The chief prosecutor changed the charge to attempted trafficking in persons, an offense that is punishable by three to eight years imprisonment. The prosecutor requested seven years imprisonment, and the judge sentenced the defendant to 5 years in prison, approximately $1,000 USD in punitive damages, and a fine of approximately $200 USD.

In the past year, ABA ROLI has conducted trainings in Hinche on the new TIP legislation. ABA ROLI has also organized strategic working sessions in Port-au-Prince with Judge Simon and prosecutor Michel, as well as the heads of two other jurisdictions that are struggling with TIP (Jacmel and Mirebalais). The objective of these sessions was to identify strategies to combat TIP. ABA ROLI also provided these Hinche authorities with on-site mentoring assistance from international expert Helga Klein, and ABA ROLI local liaison Sabine Boucher. They visited Judge Simon and prosecutor Michel several times in Hinche to provide guidance on TIP, including advice on how to move forward with this important TIP case.

ABA ROLI has additionally been supporting the newly-established National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons. It recently completed a guidebook to facilitate detection of trafficking cases and identification of victims and traffickers. The guidebook also includes a “how to” section on initiating arrests, detentions and investigations. The guidebook will be launched at the upcoming national TIP Committee conference.

ABA ROLI activities in Haiti are funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

To learn more about our work in Haiti, please contact ABA ROLI at [email protected].