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Kenya parliament gives preliminary approval to anti-human trafficking bill

The Kenyan Parliament [official website] on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to legislation [text, PDF] that would create severe penalties for human traffickers, including life imprisonment for repeat offenders. The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Bill, 2010 was unanimously approved [Daily Nation report] by the parliament, and will now be considered again by the body before being sent to President Mwai Kibaki [official profile; BBC profile] for approval. The legislation is intended to bring Kenya in full compliance with the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime [materials] and would impose life sentences on traffickers involved in organized trafficking efforts. The legislation would also subject individual traffickers to a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison or a minimum fine of KEC $5 million (USD $62,000), and a life sentence for a repeat offense. Courts would be able to order restitution to the victims of human trafficking under the bill for medical and psychological treatment, living expenses, and otherwise "just compensation." Victims would also be immunized against prosecution for any crime committed as a direct result of being trafficked, and the government will be required to establish National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking, consisting of the forfeited assets of traffickers'.

Earlier this month, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] released its annual report [JURIST report] on human trafficking conditions across the globe. In its section detailing Kenya, the report recommended the passage of the counter-trafficking bill after finding that the country had inadequate protections in place for the victims of human trafficking. Additionally, the report stated that despite stringent anti-trafficking laws, they were rarely enforced and the crime was ill-defined. Also in June, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] released a report [JURIST report] detailing the globalization of organized crime and its threat to international security. The report specifically addressed the global economic impact of human and drug trafficking, sale of illicit firearms, piracy, identity theft and the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Last October, the US and the EU announced an international criminal treaty [JURIST report] that will greatly increase cooperation between the two governments in fighting the trafficking of humans and the sale of illegal drugs.

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