Legislative Assembly approves tougher human trafficking law

Friday, June 13, 2008
Issue 373, Page 1 & 6
Word count: 470
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Anti Human Trafficking Crime Law was yesterday passed at the Legislative Assembly with the support of the majority number of lawmakers.

The law will be in effect the day after being published in the Official Gazette.

Although human trafficking has been banned in Macau since 1997, it was regulated under the Organised Crime Law which means that such kind of activities, if initiated or operated by an individual, traffickers could be not punished by the law.

The new law does not only close the above loophole of Macau’s legal system, but also now regulates persons being smuggled from other places into the SAR.

Protection and assistance measures for victims of human trafficking have also been introduced in the law to ensure their basic rights.

According to the legislation, offenders who use means such as violence, kidnapping, intimidation, fraud and power abuse in order to conduct sexual, labour or services exploitation on persons, and also by force or coercion to make them become slaves or similar kind, or to remove their organs or tissues, a jail sentence of three to 12 years could be handed down.

If victims are minors, the penalty could be raised from five to 15 years in prison.

In addition, one third of the original number of years of a jail sentence will be added to the final verdict if victims are under the age of 14.

The aggravated penalty was introduced as the First Standing Committee which deliberated the law said children, apart from women, were “top targets” of human trafficking activities.

Meanwhile, as “international adoption has already been identified as a common means to cover child trafficking”, the committee said in the deliberation report, offenders who receive or offer money or other rewards in order to transfer minors to other persons, shall be given a jail sentence of one to five years.

The same penalty also applies to those who have knowledge of the crime but still exploit victims at work or make use of their organs, as well as to persons who “hold, hide, damage or destroy” victims’ identification or travel documents.

Victims will also be entitled to a series of rights including compensation, police protection, legal advice and judicial assistance, financial aids from the Social Welfare Bureau to return to home countries, a permission to stay in Macau under a confidential identity and in a protected shelter during legal proceedings as well as free counselling, medical and drugs assistance.

If victims, their families or witnesses’ lives are at risk, the law states that any local judicial departments, criminal police institutes or public entities have to adopt prompt measures in a bid to ensure their safety.

As for victims who are not Macau residents, a cooperation mechanism should be activated with other countries or regions so as to provide corresponding protection and assistance.

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