Paulina Quintao – The National Parliament (NP) has begun discussions on proposed law no. 26/III/III to combat human trafficking in the country. Its objective is to respond to cases of human trafficking, which occur in the country.
President of Commission A (responsible for the constitution, public administration, local authorities and anti-corruption) MP Carmelita Moniz said Timor-Leste had adopted a number of international conventions and therefore had an obligation to meet the requirements under the treaties.
"This law is very important to give our country dignity because we have adopted international conventions," she said at the plenary session.
Therefore, she called on MPs to approve the law as soon as possible, as the legislation mandate will also be completed shortly.
The Council of Ministers gave their approval to the proposed law in March 2015 and it was then submitted to parliament in May 2015 to open the consultation process with public entities.
Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Ivo Valente said there were a number of reasons to push the government to establish the laws.
He said although article 163 of the penal code talked about combating human trafficking, it did not go into specific detail.
Therefore it was important to establish a specific law as the legal basis for judges to make good decisions to combating this crime across the country.
"Apart from imposing heavy penalties on traffickers, [the law] will also provide protection for victims because they have the right to receive assistance, especially in their situation and in these cases," he said.
The proposed law also talks about ways to prevent human trafficking, in particular raising awareness on the background and the impact of the crime on society.
He said the proposed law would clearly define the role of the competent authorities, including the ministries of Health, Education, Social Solidarity, Interior and Foreign Affairs, as well as civil society, to address this crime.
He acknowledged that although Timor-Leste did not have any accurate data on the prevalence of human trafficking crimes, there was evidence it was occurring as some perpetrators were already in prison.
In one recent case which is currently being processed in the court, a man was detected by security authorities at the airport trying to traffic a number of Timorese women outside the country.
Valente said this case showed that Timor-Leste was not only a destination country for trafficked women, but also a source country.
Director of Rede Feto Dinorah Granadeiro said human trafficing was aserious crime that affected vulnerable women and children.
"We hope that the MPs will prioritize this issue and approve the legislation soon," she said. She added women's organization were ready to work with the government to prevent trafficking and provide assistance to victims.