Tougher anti-human trafficking bill passed in Palau

Photo: Office of the President, Palau

Palau’s House of Delegates passed on its third and final reading a Senate bill 11-73 to expand, update and strengthen the anti-human smuggling and human trafficking act.

The bill amends the current law ‘to bring them into line with international law and to reflect the true heinousness of these crimes, as well as make clear to all interested parties the substantial steps the Republic of Palau has already taken to combat human smuggling and trafficking and to make clear the rights of all individuals not to be smuggled or trafficked.”

Another intent of the bill, according to its findings, is to “provide greater clarity to law enforcement and the judiciary, and to provide greater guidance in sentencing.”

The bill expands punishment for human smuggling offences to include fines and imprisonment, no longer one or the other.  A person convicted of human smuggling can be fined not more than US$12,500 in fines with imprisonment of not less than one year or more than 10 years.

For aggravated human smuggling, the punishment is a fine of not more than US$25,000 and imprisonment of not less than five years or more than 15 years.

Travel document fraud, meaning alteration of passport or other identity papers, is also punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Penalties for conviction of child trafficking include a US$250,000 dollar fine and imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 25 years.

The bill also makes the consent of the trafficked, smuggled, or exploited person irrelevant and cannot be used as a defense in court.

If passed into law, the bill will also make commercial carriers liable for allowing entry into Palau to a person who does not have lawful travel documents. The bill has passed both houses of Olbiil era Kelulau.  If Senate agrees to the changes made by the House, the bill can be sent to the President Whipps for his action.