Indonesia’s Commitment to Overcoming the Crime of Trafficking in Persons

Transnational crime is an issue that directly intersects with human security. The development of the world is still ongoing and offers various conveniences in all respects for human life. But at the same time, this convenience also has consequences for the security of the world community and requires them to be more careful about possible adverse impacts that may occur. The freedom that is created can trigger the practice of cross-border crimes committed by individuals, even organized groups whose presence is spread across several countries. The easier mobilization and movement of people, the sophistication of information technology and transportation make boundaries and distances between countries erode and in turn, become the main trigger for transnational crimes. According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there are more than 450,000 victims and 300,000 perpetrators of human trafficking between 2003 and 2021 (UNODC, 2023). This makes transnational crime categorized as a serious issue to address because of its implications for threats to global security and prosperity. To combat human trafficking comprehensively and effectively, the world community formulated an international agreement called the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) in 2000 and produced a legal framework for dealing with transnational crime as well as a guide for world countries in designing efforts to combat cross-border crime. From the agreement formed, the United Nations classifies cross-border crimes into several types, one of which is the practice of human trafficking, especially for women and children.

As the most populous country in the world and developing country, Indonesia was detected as a main source of transit country and destination for victims of human trafficking with various motives. It is estimated that at least 100,000 to 1 million women, men, and children are exploited for sexual purposes and used as forced laborers in various businesses every year (UN Trust Fund for Human Security, 2011). Recognizing the global threat that can come at any time and endanger its entire community more broadly, Indonesia is actively involved in signing the convention on organized crime formed by the United Nations, ratifying it, and adopting it into national regulations as a form of concern for the issue of cross-border crime, especially human trafficking.

UNTOC as an international legal umbrella overcoming crimes of human trafficking

The United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) is an international agreement under the auspices of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which aims to fight and prevent cross-border crimes between countries. The urgency in dealing with cross-border crimes in the form of cooperation and the concerns of world countries for the safety of their citizens about world developments that are difficult to control are the background for the formation of this legal instrument. The intent and purpose of the convention can also be seen in its article number 1 which emphasizes the importance of strengthening cooperation in fighting the global threat of transnational crime. Compared to other legal instruments, this convention has a unique form. Because the convention overshadows the 3 protocols under it, namely regarding human trafficking, especially women and children which came into force in 2003; migrant smuggling in effect from 2004; and manufacture and trade in illicit firearms with effect from 2005 (UNODC, nd). This serves to describe the regulations in more detail and provide flexibility to United Nations member states in the process of negotiating and ratifying them. In this case, all countries are given the freedom by following their respective national interests to ratify only the convention, or as a whole, and together with the three protocols. With a note, if the country only wants to ratify one of the protocols, the country is required to ratify the convention first with the intention that the ratifying country can understand the contents of the protocol which is in line with the objectives of the convention. After the ratification process of one of those conventions including UNTOC, the parties have the obligation to adopt the convention to the national regulations or law.

The crime of human trafficking is contained in the first protocol of the UNTOC convention which consists of 4 elements. First, it contains general provisions regarding the crime of human trafficking which consists of 5 articles. Second, provisions for the protection of victims of human trafficking 3 articles. Third, prevention efforts, cooperation, and other actions as many as 5 articles. Finally, the final provisions are 7 articles which contain dispute settlement mechanisms, ratification, validity periods, amendments, complaints, and provisions for the use of language and storage (UNODC, 2004).

National Regulations On Human Trafficking Crimes In Indonesia And Other Efforts As An Implementation of UNTOC

Indonesia ratified the convention on preventing transnational organized crime on April 20, 2009, and completed its ratification process on September 28, 2009 by ratifying a protocol to prevent, suppress and punish perpetrators of human trafficking practices and protocols for smuggling migrants by land, sea, and air. This adoption uses Law No. 37 of 1999 concerning foreign relations, Law No. 24 of 2000 concerning international agreements, Law No. 23 of 2002 concerning child protection, Law No. 21 of 2007 concerning the crime of trafficking in persons, and Law Number 5 concerning the ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as legal review owned by Indonesia. The adoption of the protocol was carried out through Law No. 14 of 2009 concerning ratification of related protocols, followed by the establishment of presidential regulation no. 69 of 2008 concerning the task force for the prevention and control of the crime of trafficking in persons, which was subsequently replaced by Presidential Decree No. 22 of 2021. The task force formed under this ministry functions as a coordinating agency in the prevention and handling of the crime of trafficking in persons which is divided into several levels, namely at the national, provincial, and city or district levels while still forming coordination between them and several other ministries.

In addition to legalization efforts and national actions, the Indonesian government is also working to strengthen its foreign cooperation in the field of preventing human trafficking. For example, through the activeness in ratifying the convention on human trafficking at the ASEAN level (ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons) which was inaugurated on 21 November 2015 and took effect in March 2017 (ASEAN, 2015). In addition, the Indonesian government also establishes bilateral cooperation with countries that have the same concern in human trafficking crimes, including the United Arab Emirates government in 2015 and cooperation in the field of human trafficking and smuggling with Australia in 2010.

Indonesia’s Challenges In Dealing With Human Trafficking

Until now, human trafficking is still categorized as a strategic issue for Indonesia that gets priority to be handled and controlled. The modes of crime which are increasingly diverse and developing, continue to pose a threat to the Indonesian state. The government continues to rescue Indonesian migrant workers, which is the starting point for acts of trafficking in persons. However, several challenges remain amid these efforts. The poverty rate of the Indonesian people is still high, the level of education and knowledge is low, and the lack of land for work which has led to an increase in the unemployment rate is supported by information technology that continues to develop and is accessed by the community, which is a trigger as well as a challenge that must be faced by Indonesia in overcoming human trafficking. The latest data from the Indonesian foreign ministry shows that in 2022 there will be around 968 Indonesian citizens who are victims of human trafficking in the Southeast Asian region to commit online scams. The existence of this challenge is a reminder of the importance of the commitment of all parties to coordinate in dealing with crimes of human trafficking. In addition to the challenges that arise from the community side, relaxed supervision and regulations enforced by government elements at the city, regional and national levels are also the cause of the increasing level of human trafficking in Indonesia. Therefore, integrated steps, strengthening bilateral, regional, and international cooperation and law enforcement are very important. Since adopting conventions and protocols on human trafficking, Indonesia has also been increasingly aggressive in promoting this issue. This is demonstrated by Indonesia’s active participation in various forums discussing cross-border crimes, including crimes of human trafficking. Both in international and regional forums. The legally binding nature of a convention is also capable of triggering member states to continue to comply with existing regulations. Even though the protocol is categorized as a soft law, the impact and interest of each country in handling the issue of human trafficking inevitably make it an obligation that must be conformed. In addition, this also proves that a country’s compliance with international agreements is influenced by the level of urgency of the issues formulated in the agreement.

The adoption of transnational crime conventions and protocols to prevent, suppress and punish perpetrators of human trafficking practices, basically must be Indonesia’s and other parties of UNTOC’s ‘eternal’ turning point to encourage all parties to take part in preventing the practice of human trafficking crimes. Not only become a legal framework that is formally adopted as a national regulation.

Nafa Almaushofia
Nafa Almaushofia
Master's student of International relations at Gadjah Mada University