“[The partnership between the Human Trafficking Institute and the DPP’s office] is one of the best things that has happened to my office. It has helped us identify hiccups. It has helped us consolidate our work between the two departments. It has helped us set goals.”
– MIKE CHIBITA, Director of Public Prosecutions in Uganda
Uganda lies at the heart of the African Great Lakes region, bordering South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda also sits on the shores of Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria.
Because of its centralized location, Uganda is an important destination in the region for trade and tourism. However, growing economic disparity and lack of employment opportunities has also resulted in making the population vulnerable to the crime of human trafficking. Traffickers in Uganda often use threats and violence to compel victims in commercial sex acts or to work in their businesses. The criminal justice system in the country is not yet adequately equipped to deal with this serious crime. In the absence of a credible risk of jail time, traffickers are emboldened to prey on victims with impunity.
Sex trafficking and forced labor are both major problems in Uganda. Traffickers force their victims to work in a variety of industries or to engage in commercial sex. Uganda’s 2009 Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act prohibits all forms of human trafficking. However, specialized human trafficking enforcement expertise is required for the law to realize its potential.
With trafficking cases continuing to rise, mechanisms need to be implemented to help cases move through the criminal justice system, which will enable the prosecutors to bring justice to traffickers and victims.
The Institute has met several senior Ugandan leaders, including the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief Justice of Uganda, the Speaker of the Parliament, the Head of Uganda’s Interagency Coordinating Mechanism on Human Trafficking, and the Inspector General of Police. Each described a need for specialized human trafficking units equipped with the skills and tools necessary to be effective. Nevertheless, Ugandan officials are taking steps to bring tangible hope to victims of human trafficking. The Institute is helping Uganda lay the groundwork to improve the effectiveness of trafficking investigations and prosecutions in Uganda.
- Working closely with the Human Trafficking Institute, the Ugandan government approved the formation of a new specialized Human Trafficking Department in the Ugandan police force. This new Human Trafficking Department is expected to have 250+ dedicated staff, including specialized human trafficking officers across the country.
- The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions designated a specialized prosecutor to oversee all human trafficking cases around the country.
- The Director of Public Prosecutions entered into a new agreement, allowing the Institute to hire lawyers to work inside his office long-term to work with prosecutors on building their skills, solving case-related challenges, and stopping more traffickers.
- In March 2018, the Institute co-hosted a large-scale training of 140 judges in Kampala to help them understand Uganda’s human trafficking law and how to apply it in different scenarios.
- The Institute celebrated the realization of another key component of its model when the Head of the Uganda Police Force and the Director of Public Prosecutions sent police, prosecutors, and victim specialists to the Institute’s first Global Human Trafficking Academy for intensive hands-on training.
- Several human trafficking investigations were referred to the Institute for guidance on investigations, prosecutions and victim services referrals. Most of the cases being investigated involve the sex trafficking of minors.
- At the invitation of the Chief Justice, the Institute led a large-scale training for 175 judges, police, and prosecutors in Kampala in June 2017, and produced a series of recommendations to be approved by the Ugandan government.
- The Institute hired experienced lawyer Tanima Kishore to serve as Special Counsel in Uganda in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
- The Director of Public Prosecutions selected 10 prosecutors to receive specialized training in human trafficking. In October 2017, the Institute traveled to Kampala to provide this training conducted by an international team of experienced human trafficking prosecutors and investigators.
- At the invitation of the Chief Justice, the Institute conducted a large-scale training on human trafficking for the Ugandan Judiciary in March 2018.
- The Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the Inspector General of Police committed personnel to attend the Institute’s 2018 Global Human Trafficking Academy in Virginia.
- The Institute renewed its agreement with the Public Prosecutions Office.
- Work with the Ugandan government to equip the newly created Human Trafficking Department with the tools and skills it needs to stop traffickers.
- Hire a Law Enforcement Advisor to work directly with the specialized police department on a day-to-day basis as it continues to increase its capacity to address human trafficking cases.
- Help structure and integrate new Victim Witness Coordination Unit into human trafficking casework and facilitate relationships with strong aftercare partners.
- Celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Uganda’s anti-trafficking law by convening key stakeholders to honor individuals who have been instrumental in the fight against trafficking and to work with the Ugandan government on creating a new 10-year action plan for continued progress in Uganda.