23 July 2009 - A court in Accra recently made history by sentencing three Chinese traffickers to 41 years in prison.
The traffickers recruited women from China - sometimes from their own communities - by offering them work in a restaurant in Ghana. Upon their arrival in Ghana, the recruited women discovered that no such restaurant existed. Their travel documents were taken from them and they were forced into sexual exploitation.
The traffickers were arrested by the Ghana Anti-Trafficking Unit within the Criminal Investigations Department after an investigative journalist published a report.
Patience Quaye, the police officer who led the prosecution, was an active participant in a UNODC train-the-trainer programme and other activities implemented to enhance proactive criminal justice responses against human trafficking in Ghana. The anti-trafficking activities carried out by UNODC in Ghana and other West African countries have focused on building capacities with respect to proactive investigation, victim and witness protection, prosecution, awareness-raising and prevention of human trafficking, as well as fostering international cooperation.
The work of the Ghana Anti-Human Trafficking Unit is a landmark achievement for criminal justice respondents in Ghana. This intelligence-led investigation, which has led to the arrest and subsequent prosecution of members of an organized and international human trafficking ring, stands as a promising example to criminal justice actors not only in West Africa, but in other regions of the world too.
United States President Barack Obama praised this prosecution when he visited Ghana on 11 July. In particular, he lauded the journalist who broke the story and Ms. Quaye, saying "time and again, Ghanaians have chosen constitutional rule over autocracy, and shown a democratic spirit that allows the energy of your people to break through. We see that ... in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth. We see it in police like Patience Quaye, who helped prosecute the first human trafficker in Ghana."
In his remarks to the Ghanaian Parliament, President Obama highlighted the need for "capable, reliable and transparent institutions" that offer people strong parliaments, honest police forces and independent judges.
The exemplary work of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, in particular, and of the National Task Force, in general, also underscores the need for and value of the technical assistance delivered by UNODC - such as that received by Ms. Quaye - to strengthen the capacity of criminal justice practitioners to combat human trafficking in West Africa, as well as to protect the victims of such trafficking.