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2002 | 54th Regular Session of the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights (July - August 2002)

The urgent need for universal criminalisation of human trafficking

July-August 2002
Palais des Nations

Franciscans International, Caritas Internationalis and Dominicans for Justice and Peace share the view of the Sub-Commission Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery that slavery, in all its forms “including human trafficking”is a crime against humanity and that any acquiescence by a State in such practices, irrespective of whether, it has acceded to the conventions on slavery or any other relevant treaty, constitutes a grave violation of basic human rights.

Human trafficking is indeed a global phenomenon. From Asia to Central and Eastern Europe, from Latin America to Africa, traffickers recruit victims, who, like commodities, are smuggled across borders, sold and then exploited very often under the threat of violence. Many of them end up coerced into forced labor, sexual exploitation or bonded labor.

As the UN Secretary – General has indicated in his message to the International Summit on Human Trafficking, Child Abuse, Labor and Slavery (Abuja, 2-4 August 2002), “trafficking in persons is fuelled by poverty, unemployment and disruption of traditional livelihoods, as well as by economic disparities among countries and between women and men. It has become the fastest-growing business of organized crime, and many drug traffickers have switched to it because it is more lucrative and relatively risk-free”.

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime has now been signed by over 100 States. This is encouraging, but all States must work for universal ratification and the full implementation of all articles of the Protocol.

Specifically, the Protocol’s clear definition of trafficking should be incorporated into domestic legislation along with Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Protocol, which deal with the provision of protection and support to victims of trafficking. In practice, many victims of trafficking continue to be detained, criminalized, summarily deported and exposed to serious harm because of a failure by States to identify them correctly and provide them with the advice and support services they require. In particular, all trafficked persons should be given the right to remain temporarily or permanently in the State to which they have been trafficked when there is a risk that they will suffer further human rights violations if removed. The needs of child victims of trafficking should be given special attention and the best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration in all cases.

In its future sessions, the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery might consider to facilitate a dialogue among different actors in order to encourage States to recognize the existence of human trafficking, include this issue in their national agenda and ease quality research to clarify facts and figures inherent to human trafficking. In addition, the Working Group can help States to adopt consistent national anti-trafficking legislation aimed at:

  • penalizing the criminals (trafficking networks and the demand side while avoiding criminalization of the victims),
  • assisting and protecting the victims,
  • providing safe return in the country of origin or guaranteeing the possibility to stay in the country into which the person was trafficked,
  • ensuring equality between men and women,
  • raising awareness (e.g. education at all levels, sharing information among all actors involved, capacity building for personnel working with victims).

Franciscans International, Caritas Internationalis and Dominicans for Justice and Peace would like to recommend that the Sub-Commission:

  1. Urges States which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized.
  2. Also urges States which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the 1999 ILO Convention concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor (No 182).
  3. Calls upon States to recognize that human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms and, hence, to adopt a human rights approach to understand, prevent, detect and punish it.
  4. 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 their exploiters.
  5. Urges States 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.
  6. Urges governments to adopt or strengthen legislative and other measures, such as educational, social or cultural, including through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons that leads to human trafficking.
  7. Also urges States to allocate resources, as appropriate, to provide comprehensive programs designed to provide assistance to, protection for, healing reintegration into society and rehabilitation of victims.
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