Last month we supported a high profile and complex cross-border sex trafficking case in Bangladesh. As part of a gang rivalry between criminal networks, a horrific video of a girl being tortured went viral on TikTok. The torture victim had been trafficked to Dubai and forced into sexual exploitation, before becoming embroiled in recruiting other victims for a powerful criminal network across the India-Bangladesh border.
The viral sharing of the video drew police attention in both India and Bangladesh. Police in Bangalore rounded up and arrested 22 young people in the house where the video was recorded. Through our partner in India, we were requested to assist with the identification and nationality verification of those arrested.
Our lawyers worked with the Bangladesh Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to prove that all those involved were Bangladeshi, resulting in the charging and remand of 11 suspected exploiters and the identification of eight trafficking victims. Without our vital intervention, the arrested traffickers would have been released on bail – from which they would have certainly absconded.
Those charged with sex trafficking and gang rape include a ‘kingpin’ who claims to have trafficked more than 500 Bangladeshi girls into sexual exploitation in India. Many of the victims were recruited via TikTok or parties organised by TikTok influencers associated with the criminal network.
Our team has provided counselling and grocery support to some of the victims and their families, as well as organising video conferences between the victims, CID and police in India. We will continue to support the investigation as it continues to widen and subsequently moves to the trial stage.
Collaboration, expertise and courage are at the heart of how we work. This case shows the importance of collaboration between NGOs, governments and local authorities, the expertise needed in identifying and rescuing victims of human trafficking and the courage to bring traffickers to justice. It really does take a network to break a criminal network.
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