Source: Free Malaysia Today
PETALING JAYA: Human rights organisation Tenaganita has lauded the government’s move to set up a special court focused on human trafficking cases, saying it will be a useful component of Malaysia’s strategy to combat the problem.
Its executive director, Glorene A Das, however cautioned that the effort would be construed as a public relations exercise if certain important prerequisites were not fulfilled.
She said very often victims of trafficking, most of them foreigners, were reluctant to fight their cases in courts due to the lengthy legal process and lack of support. This problem needed to be addressed.
She said Tenaganita had raised concerns that the longer the victims were kept for their trials, the more they would become traumatised and would want to go home, making efforts to convict the perpetrators useless.
She said the survivors of any human trafficking case needed to be protected and sheltered. Their other needs also need to be duly considered while the court process is ongoing.
She said it was also important to ensure other aspects, such as accurate identification of the crimes, robust investigation and careful compilation of evidence were done with utmost integrity.
“It is also crucial to strengthen the working relationship between the enforcement agencies and NGOs in improving the protection of the survivors,” Das said in a statement today.
“Unless these vital prerequisites are met, the setting up of the special courts could be construed as a public relations exercise to seek another upgrade in the upcoming US TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report 2018,” she said.
On Jan 13, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is home minister, had said the establishment of the special court this year was vital to prove the government’s seriousness in hearing human trafficking cases committed by either individuals or agents, locally and abroad.
He said the ministry had proposed that the special court have a judge who possessed expertise in the issue of human trafficking.
Zahid also said the government was working with Tenaganita by allocating provisions to provide shelter for victims.
Das said having judges with experience and a fine appreciation of the “elements and intricacies” of human trafficking would be helpful in ensuring effective prosecution of the perpetrators.
“This is especially the case because there seems to be a tendency for cases involving human trafficking for labour to be downplayed or mistaken as mere violations of the Employment Act,” she said.
Das also said the NGO was appreciative of Zahid’s statement that the government was working closely with it on the issue.
“We look forward to greater consultation with the authorities so that we can share our experiences and insights gleaned over more than 26 years of work in this field to cooperate closely with the authorities in combating human trafficking in our country,” she said.