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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Measure to create human trafficking observatory endorsed by Justice Dept.

Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández

By The Star Staff

The island Justice Department has endorsed Senate Bill 1237, which proposes the creation of the Puerto Rico Human Trafficking Observatory, aimed at establishing a robust public policy to combat all conduct that constitutes exploitation of persons with the aim of obtaining economic benefit from them.

Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández endorsed the bill through an explanatory memorandum submitted to the upper chamber’s Life and Family Affairs Committee, in which he recommended that the proposed observatory be administered by the Civil Rights Commission.

“The bill seems to us a commendable effort focused on addressing an issue of utmost importance that affects the human rights of citizens, particularly women and minors, worldwide,” the Justice secretary said in the memorandum. “Certainly, the Department of Justice favors any initiative aimed at preventing and combating human trafficking in Puerto Rico.”

“We believe that one of the most effective ways to address human trafficking is from the perspective of the violation of civil rights, which tends to establish a public policy and legislation that safeguards the interests and human rights of the most vulnerable sectors of the population,” Emanuelli Hernández wrote. “Considering the nature of the functions carried out by the Civil Rights Commission and the studies already carried out by this organization, we recommend that the proposed Human Trafficking Observatory be attached to this Commission. In this way, we believe that the new public policy will be addressed from the most appropriate and complete perspective.”

On Aug. 24, the Justice Department also informed the Civil Rights Commission in writing of state and federal jurisdiction, concurrently, to prosecute cases of human trafficking on the island. In fact, the Prosecutor’s Office is currently litigating a case in the Guayama court.

Because the problem of human trafficking is intimately linked to human trafficking across borders, it was included in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which the island departments of Justice and Public Safety, the Institute of Forensic Sciences and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed on the mechanism for the referral and handling of these and other cases that are processed concurrently. Under the MOU, which has been renewed since 2010, crimes related to human trafficking under Title 18 of the United States Code are under the primary jurisdiction of the federal government.

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