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Bringing Human Traffickers to Justice in Sudan

The notorious human trafficker Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam was detained in Sudan at the beginning of January – Carlos Uriarte Sanchez

Kidane was sentenced in absentia in Ethiopia to life imprisonment for human trafficking, extortion. In an effort to escape authorities, Interpol, police from the UAE, Sudan and Ethiopia and police from the Netherlands worked behind the scenes to track Kidane to Sudan. He was then taken into custody and extradited back to the UAE to face money laundering allegations.

Sudan’s participation to the international law enforcement initiative that led the detention of Kidane underlines Sudan’s commitment in stopping human trafficking. According to the U.S., Sudan rose from a Tier 3 (the worst rating for human trafficking) to a Tier 2. State Department. The United States and Sudan must continue to work together – Sudan is a key partner in global anti-trafficking efforts due to its role as the main transit country to Europe via the Horn of Africa. – to increase its ability to mitigate this practice within its borders.

While human trafficking declined globally during the pandemics, the UN Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2022 found that conflict and instability were the main drivers of an increase in human trafficking in Europe and the Middle East. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made it even more difficult for human traffickers such as Kidane to operate. In the five first weeks of Russia’s invasion Ukraine , four million people fled Ukraine . Women and children accounted for 90 percent of all refugees. There were 21,347 victims of human trafficking in Europe by 2021. 11.450 African victims of human trafficking were identified, with the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia being the main driver for refugees across the region. Conflict is responsible for more than 60.000 Ethiopians in Sudan. Half of these are children. There are over 3 million IDPs and more than 1.1 million refugees in Sudan, mainly from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. Human traffickers are looking to exploit these vulnerable populations for their own gain.


Since 2014, when Parliament passed Combating of Human Trafficking Act by Parliament, Sudanese officials are increasingly trying to reduce the practice of human slavery. This is a welcome development given Sudan’s history as a hub for victims of human trafficking from East Africa to Europe. The National Committee to Combat Trafficking created its first action plan in 2017. In the same year, Sudan’s Vice President, Gen. In the same year, Sudan’s Vice President, Gen. In 2020, Gedaref State Police released 66 Ethiopians and Sudanese from human trafficking at the Sudanese/Ethiopian border. Sudanese officials collaborated with EU officials in 2021 to ensure that the National Action Plan for Combating Human Trafficking 2021-2023 met EU standards for “Prevention, Prosecution and Coordination and Partnership”. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR and IOM commended Sudan’s Government for launching the plan last year. The U.S. The State Department acknowledged that Sudanese Armed Forst (SAF) officers had been trained by its military in child protection, including soldiering.

The U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report for Sudan 2022 states that although personnel turnover after the military takeover in Sudan in October 2021 hampered authorities’ ability to continue anti-trafficking efforts, it acknowledged that authorities had made “increasing attempts” in the reporting period 2020-2021. The Sudanese authorities have brought more traffickers to justice, and established programs to reduce the practice of child soldier recruiting. Sudan is still far from meeting the minimum standards for ending human trafficking.

Europe and the U.S. must take advantage of this opportunity to work more positively with Sudan’s leadership in order to improve its ability to combat human trafficking and other related offenses. This includes distinguishing between traffickers who smuggle migrants from those who engage in labor or sexual trafficking. This will allow Sudanese authorities to track the data and identify the types of human trafficking in Sudan. This will help law enforcement to catch traffickers and prosecutors to use the law to bring them to justice . The creation of a safe environment in Sudan to prevent human trafficking will dramatically reduce illegal migration from Europe and spare thousands of people from modern slavery and human trafficking.


Carlos Uriarte Sanchez

Carlos Uriarte Sanchez, Professor of Law at Rey Juan Carlos University, is Secretary-General for Paneuropa Spain. Paneuropa Spain was founded in 1922 to promote European integration.

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