The visit has provided opportunities for dialogue and coordination between the institutions involved in the fight against these crimes in both countries, reaching important agreements for joint cooperation
An internship was organised for a Bolivian delegation to Colombia to exchange experiences and best practices within the framework of the European project to combat drug trafficking in Bolivia. On the Bolivian side, officials from the Attorney General’s Office (FGE), the Ministry of Justice and Institutional Transparency, the Ministry of Government and the Bolivian Police, all of which are involved in the fight against the crimes of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, participated. Meetings have been held with Colombian counterpart institutions, such as the Ministry of Interior, the Colombian Police, the Attorney General’s Office (FGN), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Migration.
The COVID pandemic has generated new forms of recruitment and exploitation, making it necessary to readapt the approach to the criminal prosecution of this crime. In addition, the use of technology has strengthened the transnational nature of the crime, making coordination and cooperation between states more necessary.
The meeting with the Colombian police has allowed the participants to learn about the investigative techniques and technical means used to combat the crime of human trafficking, exchanging experiences in the use of undercover agents, virtual undercover agents and interception of calls. Bilateral meetings have been agreed between the Bolivian and Colombian specialised anti-trafficking units to maintain these exchanges.
The facilities of the FGN’s Victim, Witness and Intervention Protection Programme, an institution that offers security to victims in the face of real security risks, were visited. A key element of the debate has been re-victimisation and the application of the victim-centred approach. In Colombia, the presence of the victim at the oral trial is required, which leads to constant re-victimisation processes. However, in Bolivia, the victim’s interview in advance is valid as evidence, an experience that has been very well received by the Colombian authorities, which is why it has been agreed to maintain a dialogue to make progress in the protection of victims and avoid re-victimisation.
The project is promoting this approach, which prioritises protection, access to justice and reparation and the restoration of victims’ rights, seeking to promote economic reparation for victims, among others. The Bolivian delegation and the FGN have met in order to establish a mechanism that will allow them to know what progress is being made in both countries along these lines. Bolivia has already included a recommendation linked to the economic restoration of victims, linking the crimes of human trafficking and money laundering; while Colombia has proposed the creation of a fund for such reparation.
With the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Migration, it has been agreed to establish a direct mechanism for the repatriation of victims; a direct channel has even been provided to expedite the repatriation of a Colombian minor victim rescued in La Paz. There are two minor victims of trafficking, one in Bolivia of Colombian nationality and the other in Colombia of Bolivian nationality, whose procedures were discussed at this meeting in order to expedite their respective repatriations.
Likewise, contacts have been established between the Bolivian Ministry of Justice and Institutional Transparency and the Bolivian Embassy in Colombia to advance the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Inter-Institutional Council (Colombia) and the Plurinational Council (Bolivia), bodies that coordinate the public institutions involved in the prevention, protection and criminal prosecution of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.
Coordination processes have also been promoted between the prosecutors’ offices of both countries, in addition to existing mechanisms – a more formal one, through letters rogatory, which presents certain difficulties; and a more informal one, through AIAMP (Ibero-American Association of Public Prosecutors) and REDTRAM (Network Against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants). They have met with the REDTRAM focal point in Colombia to search for areas of cooperation, in which the creation of ECIs (joint investigation teams) has been mentioned as a key element in the fight against these crimes, which have a marked transnational focus.