Hon. Mark J. Kappelhoff practices interviewing skills with a training participant.

From October 28-30, 2019, Warnath Group experts Hon. Mark J. Kappelhoff and Hon. Paul. R Scoggin led an anti-trafficking training in Libreville, Gabon for Appeals Court and Instruction Judges. Fifty-eight  judges attended the training where Judges Kappelhoff and Scoggin used interactive techniques, presentations, and mock interviews to familiarize participants with Gabon’s new human trafficking law and promising practices in combating human trafficking including the victim-centered approach, victim interviewing techniques and the Judge’s role covering special considerations that arise in human trafficking cases.

 The first day of training focused on evaluating participants’ familiarity with human trafficking concepts and on establishing an understanding of international and domestic anti-trafficking legislation. Judge Kappelhoff highlighted the distinction between child and adult trafficking and the key elements used to prove instances of trafficking: the act, means, and purpose. Participants used clicker technology to interact with short case studies where they applied the elements of human trafficking to fact patterns and “voted” in real-time for their determinations of the cases. Many of the participants were able to share stories of their own experiences handling trafficking cases and their experiences were used to supplement the training examples and foster valuable interactions among participants and learning from each other.

The second day of training  centered around developing strategies to better respond to the needs of victims. Because the victim-centered, trauma-informed approach is a vital element of effective responses to instances of trafficking, considerable time was spent explaining the impact of trauma on trafficking victims. While only a few participants had previously received training that included the victim-centered approach, this element of the training garnered significant interest and discussion. Participants explored interactive scenarios and mock interviews where actors portrayed victim-witnesses, providing an opportunity for the participants to practice victim-centered techniques.

The third day of training focused on the application of international law and new elements of Gabon’s procedural code. Judge Scoggin stressed the importance of compiling strong evidence and official records to strengthen prosecution efforts. He also urged participants not to merely settle for low hanging fruit and to work, in the spirit of the Palermo Protocol, to prosecute trafficking cases wherever supported by the facts. Both experts recommended that judges delegate specific cases, as provided for under Gabon’s law, in order to compile thorough and extensive evidence. Again, group exercises were used to familiarize participants with the process of investigation under the new trafficking law.

Overall, the judges were committed to increasing their skills to better adjudicate human trafficking cases in a victim-centered manner.  Participants developed crucial skills to identify and prosecute human trafficking, as well as an understanding of the victim-centered, trauma- informed approach, allowing them to better respond to the needs of victims.  One participant reflected that:“The victim-centered approach is, for me, a new element that will allow me to lead hearings differently. It will allow me to be more patient and comprehensive without fear of appropriating a victim’s suffering.” 

Following this training, the Warnath Group will use dedicated web pages, SMS and email communications, online surveys, and established relationships with designated bridge participants to remain a resource for all training participants.

This training was made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP), and with the help of the U.S. Embassy in Gabon.

Hon. Mark J. Kappelhoff engages participants.

The training began with an opening official ceremony that included the U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Robert Whitehead, the Gabonese Minister of Justice, Minister of Homeland, and Keeper of the Seal Edgard Anicet Mboumbou Miyakou and the Director of the Magistrate School.

Group Photo from the Warnath Group Training in Gabon

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