Women African judges meet at Vatican to tackle ‘plague’ of human trafficking

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2019 / 02:25 pm (CNA).- A group of around 50 women judges and prosecutors engaged in the fight against human trafficking and organized crime in Africa is meeting at the Vatican this week.

Hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, the Dec. 12-13 meeting reprises a similar summit held in December 2018.

Pope Francis addressed the summit privately for around 10-15 minutes in the afternoon of Dec. 12.

Judith Wanjala told CNA Pope Francis addressed the problem of human trafficking, “urging us to take positive steps to deal with this problem, which is affecting the entire world, so many countries.”

Wanjala, who has heard human trafficking cases as a judge in Kenya for more than 30 years, added that Pope Francis’ encouragement of the summit is for her a sign of his strong feelings against trafficking.

She said she is participating in the gathering to share and to understand better what practices judges and prosecutors in other African countries are putting into place.

“I think it is important for everybody to understand what trafficking is, because it affects almost every aspect of society, not just as women but the entire judiciary, prosecutors, police, investigators, and the public,” she said. Everyone needs “to understand what human trafficking entails.”

One participating judge, who asked not to be identified, called human trafficking a “plague” in Africa.

Mina Sougrati, an administrative judge in Morocco, told CNA that Africa is very concerned about human trafficking.

She explained that the increase in illegal immigration to Europe has been contributing to the problem, especially in Morocco: “There’s a big market for human trafficking.”

“For me it’s very important, you know, that this issue is international. And everyone from society is concerned,” she said. “Judges are more concerned because it’s up to them to decide whether it’s a human trafficker or not.”

She added that these meetings are very important because they do not always have opportunities to gather as judges within one country, “let alone the whole continent of Africa.”

“So, when we are here, everyone, from each country, talks about the problems, whether there is a law or no law, what is the strategy of the country, are there institutions working on this issue or not. We try to exchange experiences.”

Sougrati noted that the group is very happy Pope Francis has decided to create a pan-African committee on the topic of human trafficking. “The pope has done a very good thing,” she said. “This is a very, very strong work; no country in the world has done it like this.”

“We thanked him for doing this. I felt from his discourse that he speaks from the bottom of his heart that judges must work on this.”

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