November 19, 2020
As he welcomed local and international participants in the first Trafficking in Persons Judiciary Awareness Campaign in The Bahamas, on November 19, 2020, Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames said that their presence in the webinar signified not only the transnational nature of trafficking in persons, but their commitment to ending “this modern-day form of slavery”.
“Human trafficking is considered the second most profitable illicit activity after narcotics trafficking,” Minister Dames said, at his Ministry’s John F. Kennedy Drive Head Office, during the opening of the webinar. “Like many countries around the world, The Bahamas continues to identify and support victims on their road to recovery.
“In addition, we seek to aggressively pursue the prosecution of traffickers,” he added. “Despite our efforts, trafficking still remains a vexing problem due to the greed of others and its profitable nature.”
The webinar was a joint venture by the Ministry of National Security and the Bahamas Bar Association’s Bahamas Bar Council; and was a part of the Key Priority of Safety and Security.
Among those presenting before the more than 50 Justices, magistrates, attorneys, Bahamas Bar Association Bar Council members and other stakeholders taking part in the webinar were: Sir Brian Moree, Chief Justice of The Bahamas; Senator, The Hon. Carl W. Bethel, Attorney General, The Bahamas; Marco Rolle, Permanent Secretary, the Ministry of National Security, The Bahamas; Gavin Gaskin, Director of Public Prosecution, Department of Public Prosecution, The Bahamas; Mrs. Viana Gardiner – Chief Operating Officer, Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit; Todd Sargent, U.S. Embassy Representative; Kahlil Parker, President, The Bahamas Bar Association (BBA); Mrs. J. Denise Lewis-Johnson, BBA Vice-President; the Hon. Ronnie Boodoosingh, Court of Appeal, Trinidad & Tobago; Panagiotis Papadimitriou, Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, UNODC, United Nations, Vienna, Austria; Ms. Karabo Ozah, Director, Center for Child Law (CCL), University of Pretoria; Ms. Isabel Magaya, University of Pretoria, South Africa; and Supt. Tess Newbold, Chair, Trafficking in Persons, The Bahamas.
Minister Dames noted that what was most disturbing about trafficking in persons was that it was sometimes executed in plain view, as it is often unrecognizable by most in society.
“This means that consistent and consensus training; and generating awareness are critical for all stakeholders if we are to rid the world of this menacing and inhumane practice,” he said.
Minister Dames pointed out the virtual platform held that day served as a critical variable in raising awareness on that grievous practice which “plagues our respective nations.”
“Incorporated in such stakeholders’ forum should be a comprehensive response with targeted indicators, which is necessary to eradicate this violation of human rights and human dignity,” he said.
“Simultaneously, due to the transnational nature of this crime, a unified response undergirded with technical assistance and strengthened partnerships to support the fight against this activity must be a shared goal,” Minister Dames added.
“Complementary, continuous pursuits of efforts, irrespective of disruptive occurrences -- such as this global pandemic -- must be ongoing. It is often during times of crisis and uncertainty that persons are extremely vulnerable to trafficking.”
As a state party to the United Nation’s Protocol, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas had made a binding obligation and was fully committed to taking the necessary actions required to implement its provisions, he noted. On December 10, 2008 The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention and Suppression) Act was enacted by the Parliament of The Bahamas; and that legislation, he added, forms the basis for training and awareness campaigns designed to generate greater interest and foster partnerships in the fight for the humanity of all.
Minister Dames said that the legislation was supported by other mechanisms designed by the Trafficking in Persons Inter-Ministerial Committee, which was formed in 2011, and complemented by the Trafficking in Persons Task Force, which was established in 2012.
“Like today’s initiative, we in The Bahamas believe that continuous collaboration and training platforms will facilitate both front-line officers and those employed in the judicial sector with the necessary knowledge, practical skills and appropriate attitudes to actively identify, protect, and seek assistance for victims of trafficking; while vigorously pursuing convictions for traffickers,” he said.
Minister Dames noted that research suggested that judges, prosecutors, and representatives from NGOs who are well-trained to identify trafficking cases have an indelible role to play: they serve to advance the mandate on the eradication of trafficking, are better able to counter human trafficking and propose legislation in alignment with international standards.
“Colleagues, the task is mammoth and the weight of the expectation even greater,” he said. “However, greater awareness of different patterns in trafficking, the various forms of exploitation, challenges in the collection of evidence, and methods used by criminals make your partnership essential.”
Minister Dames said that it was accepted that not every case of exploitation will be classified as trafficking and not every prosecution will result in a conviction. What was important, he added, is the ability to guarantee that the rights of victims will be respected and that they are afforded every opportunity, under the law, to have their traffickers prosecuted.
He said: “As I conclude, I leave you with the words of William Wilberforce, ‘you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know’. It is my sincere hope that at the conclusion of this training, all members of our Judiciary obtain greater awareness of this heinous crime and acknowledge that trafficking in persons cannot be combated through crime control or prosecution alone; its criminalization is imperative but insufficient.
“We must recognize that trafficked persons, as victims, are entitled to the protection of their basic human rights and spare no efforts to achieve the same.”