Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla O.J., has commended efforts being made by stakeholders, at various levels of the society, to combat human trafficking in Jamaica.
Speaking at a two-day workshop hosted by the Ministry of Health at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge and Conference Centre, University of the West Indies (UWI),
St. Andrew, Mrs. McCalla cited the efforts and input of the legislature, judiciary, security forces, human rights activists, women’s groups and faith-based organisations.
She alluded to a “fairly recent disclosure” in a human trafficking report prepared by the United States State Department, which lists Jamaica at an “unacceptable”‘ Tier 2 level on its watch list.
She pointed out that this signalled that it is felt by the authorities there, that Jamaica has not fully complied fully with the minimum standards. She said that, on the contrary, Jamaica had made “significant efforts” to deal with the problem.
Citing that the existing laws in any country to punish perpetrators of the crime is necessary for the cultivation of a social conscience in that society, the Chief Justice highlighted the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act, legislated in 2007, as a direct effort to stamp out human trafficking.
“So far, the courts have been working to ensure that the objectives of the Act are complied with, and we will continue to do so in an effort to prevent and stamp out this style of criminal activity. The existence of legislation in Jamaica to confront the problem is a significant step on which we should continue to build,” she stated.
Mrs. McCalla said, however, that prior to enactment of legislation, the Courts were guided by Section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act, as well as Section 10 of the Child Care and Prevention Act, which prohibited the sale or trafficking of minors.
She assured that the judiciary will continue to enforce the laws, including Section 4(6) of the Trafficking in Persons Act, which specifies that a person who engages in human trafficking is liable, on conviction/indictment before a circuit court, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or to both.
Mrs. McCalla noted that however horrendous the crime was, there is the presumption of innocence, and the prosecution bears the burden of proof to the standard required by law.
The workshop was held under the theme, ‘Human Trafficking: A legal, medical/healthcare, economic and social dilemma’. Human trafficking is defined as the practice of humans being tricked, lured, coerced or otherwise removed from their home or country, and forced to work with no or low payment, or under terms which are highly exploitative.
The workshop brought together local and international stakeholders from various sectors and interests, for discussions on the issue of human trafficking and the way forward for Jamaica and other states, in effectively addressing the matter.
The Ministry of Health staged the event in collaboration with the Organization for Strategic Development in Jamaica (OSDJ); the Norman Manley Law School, UWI; and the International Leadership Institute.