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Cablegate: Child Traffickers Awaiting Court Decision

VZCZCXRO2322
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHBP #0717 1841308
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031308Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAMAKO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7684
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFITT/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS BAMAKO 000717

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB KCRM KFRD KWMN PHUM PREF SMIG ASEC ML
SUBJECT: CHILD TRAFFICKERS AWAITING COURT DECISION

1. Alleged Ivoirian child traffickers Bernard Assouman Yao
and Simon Djehi Bi Ta remain in custody in Sikasso following
their arrest in March 2007 for allegedly attempting to
traffic 46 young men from Cote d'Ivoire to Europe. If
convicted, they will be the first traffickers punished under
Mali's anti-trafficking law. A Malian accomplice, Amadou
Toumani has not been located. The Malian government reported
that roughly half of the victims were 18 years old, with the
remainder between the ages of 16-17. The victims arrived in
Mali in December 2006; each paid between 300 and 600 dollars
to the traffickers. The case was uncovered when several of
young men fled the warehouse where they were being held and
complained to the local gendarmes, who freed the remaining
victims and made the two arrests.

2. The Sikasso magistrate handling the case indicated that
the disappearance of the Malian contact had complicated, but
not killed, the case, and that the evidence appeared to him
sufficient for a conviction. However, the final decision
rested with a judge from the Court of Appeals in Bamako, and
the magistrate said it was inappropriate to predict an
outcome. He added that his office had decided not to release
the accused on bail, as he felt they were highly likely to
flee the country.

3. The accused traffickers themselves claimed in an
interview with Embassy officers to be running a soccer
school, and that it was Amadou Toumani that promised to help
them connect their "students" to football clubs in Europe.
They were unable to provide contact information for Toumani,
or the names of any interested football clubs. They were
also unable to explain why they held their students in a
warehouse for nearly three months.

4. The Minister of Family representative in Sikasso, Djelike
Cisse Traore, said her office helped repatriate the victims
within a week with the help of a shelter run by a local NGO
and funded by donor countries and UNICEF. Traore feared that
Sikasso risked becoming a major trafficking hub in the
region, and added that the gendarmes who made trafficking
arrests were poorly trained and seemed unable to write
reports that contributed to the judicial process. Traore
said she would continue to work to improve local law
enforcement capacity, but until further improvements were
made felt that going after the traffickers themselves would
keep proving difficult. She was pleased, however, that
police efforts at intercepting the victims at borders and
checkpoints had become more effective in the last several
years. She provided anecdotes indicating, for example, that
3 Malian children were intercepted in Sikasso in May and were
returned to their villages by the Ministry.

5. It remains to be seen if these accused traffickers will
become the first convicted under Mali's anti-trafficking
statute, but authorities in Sikasso appear to have
investigated and prosecuted the case to the best of their
ability. As for the traffickers, discussions with Malian
officials in Sikasso seem to point to the likelihood that the
traffickers had a commitment from Toumani to move their
"clients" into Europe--a commitment Toumani was unable to
deliver on. The Ivoirian traffickers were thus stranded in
Sikasso with their victims until caught by local law
enforcement agents.
Leonard

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