By: TAYLOR KING
“Throughout the next two weeks, you will be taking on your own human trafficking case. You will gather evidence, interview a human trafficking survivor, find other witnesses, decide what suspects to charge and end with a mock trial,” explained David Fillingame, Institute Special Counsel in Belize, as he introduced the Global Human Trafficking Academy cohorts to the fictional human trafficking case they’d be working during the Academy.
The Academy, hosted and conducted by The Human Trafficking Institute on October 15-26, was a unique opportunity to accelerate a country’s progress toward combatting the crime of human trafficking. Twenty-three professionals from Belize, South Africa, and Uganda – representing prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and social workers – participated in the intensive program where they engaged in hands-on training, collaborated with international counterparts, and learned from leaders in the anti-trafficking community.
To re-enforce the critical concepts covered throughout the training, the Institute integrated the mock human trafficking case, or fact pattern, into the curriculum, specifically designed with the nuances of the cohorts’ trafficking law in mind. The fictional trafficking scenario was set in the make-believe country of Belmopala. The cohorts were tasked with working the case in Belmopala City, the capital of Belmopala, the site of a bar with suspected human trafficking activity.
From the initial investigation to victim interviews to mock trials, participants worked this trafficking-in-persons (TIP) case with instruction from Fillingame, and the Institute’s Special Counsel to Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Tanima Kishore.
“The whole purpose of the fact pattern exercise was to give the participants an opportunity to apply the skills they learned at the Academy to a realistic TIP case scenario,” said Kishore. We took great care crafting all the details of the case narrative, and so we were more than pleased when the participants immediately immersed themselves in the experience. It was interesting to see the intricacies of the fact pattern unfold in form of investigations, victim interviews and finally a mock trial. It was a very enriching experience for me personally to learn how to make such exercises more effective and impactful. I found the participants engaging with all the content with great amount of interest and curiosity, and it turned out to be a fun learning activity for everyone.”
Each day, the cohort would wake up to a copy of the Belmopala Times, a fictional newspaper that provided them with facts and insights into the case they were working. They would then dive directly into the day’s latest activities – keeping in step with the case as it progressed.
“The fact pattern exercise allowed participants to have a distinctly different experience from the typical two- or three-day human trafficking training model. They weren’t asked to just sit and listen to a few presentations,” said Dave Rogers, Institute Director of Law Enforcement Operations. “Instead, they were given the opportunity to actually dive in and learn by doing. They were challenged and pushed to go outside of their comfort zones.”
And participants had no shortage of opportunity to move out of their comfort zones. During victim-witness interview day, the cohort was tasked with interacting with trained actors who played the role of victims in the case. Actors followed specific instructions about what kind of information they could and could not disclose depending entirely on the participants’ ability to appropriately approach the witness, utilizing the training they received earlier in the week.
Later, participants were immersed in an activity called “Corroboration Day,” where they explored a range of locations throughout the Center in an effort to find corroborating evidence to help build their case. Throughout the exercise, participants used investigative techniques and trauma-informed approaches to find the evidence needed to solve the case and bring the trafficker to justice, including rummaging through trash to find evidence and interviewing potential victims (actors) without tipping off their suspicious boss.
Along with learning techniques specific to their own job responsibilities in their home countries, the fact pattern exercise also gave participants an understanding of the other work that takes place to conduct a trafficking in persons case. So, at the Academy, attorneys became judges, judges became investigators, and investigators became prosecutors.
“To work effectively in a multidisciplinary team, it’s really important to understand one another’s jobs and to have an appreciation for the challenges that each role brings,” said Marie Martinez, Institute Director of Victims Services. “While each discipline involved in a trafficking case is highly specialized, all of the roles impact one another as well as the outcomes for the case and for survivors. The fact pattern was a great opportunity to build that understanding among the cohort.”