By Naimul Karim
DHAKA, Sept 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Bangladesh said on Monday it has appointed a former judge to advise on how to clear a huge backlog of trafficking cases after coming under international pressure to do more to tackle the crime.
Bangladesh has been on a U.S. State Department watchlist for the past three years over its record on human trafficking, putting it at risk of a downgrade that would trigger sanctions, limiting access to international aid.
More than 4,000 cases are awaiting trial under a 2012 law that criminalised trafficking, according to police records, and only about 30 people have been convicted so far.
"Some of these cases have been around for years," said Abu Bakar Siddique, who leads the Home Ministry's anti-trafficking efforts, as he confirmed the appointment of Reza Tariq Ahmed, a retired judge.
"We need to understand why they are stuck," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Ahmed will travel around the country to assess trafficking cases, identifying gaps in evidence and giving his recommendations on how to proceed.
The State Department said in its latest Trafficking in Persons report in June that Bangladesh did not fully meet its minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but was making significant efforts to do so.
It criticised the government for its failure to investigate several potential crimes of forced labour and sex trafficking against Rohingya refugees in the country.
The government said at the time it was working hard to resolve the problems raised.
"This is something that's happening for the first time," said Mohammad Tariqul Islam, Country Director for the anti-trafficking charity Justice and Care.
"It's a good step and we hope we get the right results."
(Reporting by Naimul Karim @Naimonthefield; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.