Trafficking law says trials are to be held in secret

A new law to fight human trafficking calls for secret courts and secret proceedings for such cases.

The confidentiality extends to trials, which usually are open to the public, although sometimes the identity of witnesses are protected.

The measure also adopts a litany of international treaties into the Costa Rican law. A text of the new law became available on the La Gaceta Web site.

The law defines trafficking in persons as promoting or facilitating the entry or exit from the country or promoting the movement of persons within the national territory if they are to engage in prostitution, labor or sexual exploitation, slavery, forced labor, forced marriage, illegal extraction of organs or illegal adoption.

The law extends to forced pregnancies and also to persons providing transport, the administrators of homes and businesses used in sexual exploitation. The law also covers what it says are other activities derived directly from trafficking in persons.

The government is instructed to house victims of trafficking and get them immigration papers free of charge.

There is an affirmative obligation of public employees and private persons to report such cases.

This is the law that creates a new $1 airport exit tax to support a bureaucracy to oversee human trafficking.

The security ministry said that there were 93 victims of trafficking last year and attributed the cases of organized crime. Some were fishermen under foreign flags and some were strippers who worked as prostitutes at clubs.

The part that worries a lot of expats is the clause that provides four to eight years in prison for anyone who promotes or sets up programs, campaigns or publicity announcements making use of whatever medium to project the country nationally and internationally as a tourist destination accessible for the commercial exploitation of prostitution of whatever sex or age. That is an adjustment to Artículo 162 bis of the penal code.

That crime is not further described.

In addition, the law orders the news media, television and radio to turn over a quarter percent of space or time to the Coalición Nacional contra el Tráfico Ilícito de Migrantes y Trata de Personas to commercials or ads against sexual tourism.

The law also absolves anyone who claims to be a victim of exploitation of any crimes he or she has committed while engaged in the exploitive activity.

The law contains incentives for individuals to claim they have been victims of human trafficking. They will receive housing, temporary residency and even transportation to their home country if they are foreigners.

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