The right to protection from trafficking

Human trafficking is a heinous crime. It often results in several other human rights violations such as the right to a family. To protect people from trafficking, the government of Rwanda established a law relating to the prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking in persons and exploitation of others.

Article 3 of the law defines trafficking of people as any act in which a person hires with the intention to exploit, recruits, transports, keeps, or receives another person. This can be done by way of using force, coercion, abduction, fraud, lying, and abuse of power or vulnerability, taking part in financial transactions, or benefiting from one person having control over another.

If the victim is a child, the means of trafficking do not matter as long as the purpose is exploitation.

Everyone has the duty to report to the relevant authorities the commission, and even the intention to commit trafficking. This is according to article 5 of the law.

To prevent trafficking, any person involved in transportation of humans for commercial purposes has the duty to confirm that every passenger is in possession of the identity or travel documents required to enter or travel through a particular country. The transporter must then report any person attempting to, or who has travelled without the required documents.

According to article 7 of the law, victims of trafficking have the right to non-discriminatory assistance and support. Additionally, according to article 8 of the abovementioned law, the victim and his/her dependents have the right to adequate protection if their safety is at risk.

During court proceedings related to trafficking, the victim has the right to protection of identity. According to article 9, the protection can be in form of sealing court records, evidence being heard through a video link, use of a pseudonym, and recording the victim’s statement during the pre-trial phase.

Victims of trafficking have a right to special assistance. For instance, in instances where the victim’s age is undetermined and there are reasons to believe that he/she is a child, the victim is treated as child as his/her age is being verified. This is according to article 12 of the aforementioned law.

Furthermore, the child is assisted by specially trained professionals, given legal guardianship if necessary, and the relevant authorities must work to establish the victim’s identity and family.

Articles 13 and 15 say that a non-Rwandan victim has the right to stay until they have been identified, while a Rwandan victim has the right to return and they are assisted to do so.

Offenses related to human trafficking attract heavy punishment, the minimum term of imprisonment being seven years while the minimum fine is Rwf 7m. This is according to articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Law Relating to the Prevention, Suppression and Punishment of Trafficking in Persons and Exploitation of others.

In some instances (aggravating circumstances), such as when the victim is a child, the maximum sentence of life imprisonment is prescribed in addition to a minimum fine of Rwf 15m.