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2004 | 56th Regular Session of the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights (26 July - 13 August 2004)

Reinforcing the fight against contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking

26 July – 13 August 2004
Palais des Nations, GenevaUN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
56th session, 26 July – 13 August 2004
Agenda item 6: Contemporary Forms of Slavery

Franciscans International and some of its grassroots members from India and Lebanon actively participated in the last session of the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. Our organization appreciated the Special Discussion organized jointly with the International Labor Organization on Combating Forced Labor. Panelists’ presentations and the interactive dialogue were useful to clarify concepts, learn some successful practices and engage in more constructive initiatives.

At the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Working Group, Franciscans international and Dominicans for Justice and Peace welcome the Group’s decision to focus on a review of the status of ratification of the relevant treaties and the identification of crucial gaps and challenges remaining in areas covered by its mandate. Our organizations congratulate Mr. Decaux for putting forward this proposal and reiterate their commitment to support this process. We believe that contemporary forms of slavery should also be examined from the perspective of the most recent legal instruments adopted on this matter, including the Palermo Protocol. In addition, we think that such a review should consider indicators on socio-economic, political, administrative and legal obstacles that impede the full enjoyment of the rights contained in the existing provisions.

Turning to the specific issue of human trafficking, we are pleased to note that the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force last 26 December 2003. As of today, this instrument has been signed by 117 States and ratified by 64 States. We urge all countries to work for universal ratification and the full implementation at the national level of all articles of the Protocol as a clear commitment to combat trafficking in persons.

However, while the Protocol obliges governments to pass legislation which prohibits and punishes all forms of trafficking, States only have to “consider implementing” the provisions on protection and support (Articles 6, 7 and 8) “in appropriate cases”. Evidence has nevertheless shown that when measures to protect and support trafficked people are implemented, they are a pre-requisite for any successful counter-trafficking strategy.

Franciscans International and Dominicans for Justice and Peace would like to recommend that the Sub-Commission calls upon governments:

  • To criminalize trafficking in human beings in all its forms and to condemn and penalize traffickers and intermediaries, while ensuring protection and assistance to the victims of trafficking with full respect for their human rights and not contingent on their cooperation with the prosecution of exploiters.
  • To devise, enforce and strengthen effective measures at the national, regional and international levels to prevent, combat and eliminate all forms of trafficking through comprehensive anti-trafficking strategies which include legislative measures, prevention campaigns and information exchange.
  • To ensure that the protection of trafficked persons is built into anti-trafficking policy, including protection from return where there are reasonable grounds to conclude that it would represent a significant security risk to the trafficked person and / or her / his family.
  • To develop national plans of action to end trafficking and to present detailed information concerning the measures that they have taken to prevent and combat trafficking to the appropriate UN mechanisms, including the relevant treaty-monitoring bodies and special procedures.
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