Circuit courts: An innovative strategy to prevent human trafficking

March 24, 2023

Prosecuting human traffickers is essential for justice and public safety.

Over the years, Blue Dragon lawyers have represented 172 victims of trafficking in court, resulting in 219 human traffickers being put behind bars.

These cases take traffickers out of action, but they don’t otherwise prevent trafficking from taking place because they happen after the fact.

However, with one small twist, court cases can become a powerful tool to educate vulnerable communities and strengthen them against the dangers of trafficking.

That ‘twist’ is called circuit courts.

In Vietnam, traffickers are typically prosecuted in the capital cities of the province where they committed their crime. These cities may be hundreds of kilometers from the villages where the crime occurred; and in mountainous regions, that distance may be a world away.

Circuit courts involve taking the court case to the district where the trafficker committed the crime. Cases are heard in the towns or villages much closer to the communities who have been impacted.

A circuit court in 2023

A circuit court with the community in attendance

There are two key benefits of this approach.

First, government officials in rural areas have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience of trafficking cases.

Instead of the case being handled at a distance, the police, officials and government leaders of smaller towns can be directly involved. From this they learn about the implementation of the law and become more skilled in preventing future instances of human trafficking.

Second, citizens in the community can observe cases and understand how trafficking occurs. This is far more effective than any advertising campaign or training program. They can hear for themselves how the traffickers operate and – critically – they can observe the consequences for those who decide to traffic others. Would-be traffickers have an opportunity to witness what their own fate may be.

Of course, not every case is suitable for hearing in a circuit court. Blue Dragon must carefully assess the need to protect the victim’s privacy and consider any potential harm to the community.

Blue Dragon has been involved in 17 circuit court cases, including two in March 2023 in the north-central province of Nghe An. Four traffickers in total were convicted – three male and one female – as their community looked on.

To end human trafficking, we need a range of tools and strategies to attack the problem from every angle. The circuit court system is one tool that is proving to have a powerful impact.

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