Last Updated on April 10, 2018, 4:49 p.m.
MALAYSIA launched its first special court for human trafficking in the Klang Sessions Court complex today.
Chief Justice Raus Sharif said five more will be set up within the year in Ipoh, Penang, Malacca, Muar, and Kota Kinabalu, in that order.
"We selected Klang to be the location for this pioneer project because statistics wise, Selangor has the highest concentration of human trafficking cases registered among all the other states in Malaysia," said Raus in his speech.
Judge Unaizah Mohd will preside over 12 cases registered in this new court in Klang.
Only senior sessions court judges with at least 25 years of experience in the judicial and legal service are qualified to preside in the special court on human trafficking, he said.
"Previously human trafficking cases were assigned as normal cases to judges. With this specialised court, the judges can concentrate on these cases only. That's why we're confident the cases can be disposed of within nine months," Raus told reporters after the launch.
Another 64 human trafficking cases pending in Selangor will be resolved in their original courts, said Raus.
Last year, there were 147 convictions, 282 cases and 676 arrests related to human trafficking, he said.
Raus said the special court was a brainchild of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Local human rights group Tenaganita has lauded the special court as a step in the right direction as it spares trafficking victims a lengthy legal process.
Malaysia was ranked Tier 2 in the US annual Trafficking in Persons Report last year, which means the country does not meet the minimum standards to eliminate trafficking but is making significant efforts.
Foreign migrants and refugees, including women and children, are usually trafficked to Malaysia to work as forced labourers in the sex trade, domestic work, agriculture, food, textile, and electronics sectors.
Malaysian girls and women, including from rural and indigenous groups, have also been found to be human trafficking victims, according to a Women's Aid Organisation report in 2017.
Malaysia made international headlines in 2015 when mass graves of human trafficking victims were discovered at the Thai-Malaysian border.
Sixty-two people in Thailand, including public officials, were prosecuted while in Malaysia, four foreigners were charged with human trafficking offences. No Malaysians were charged.