In Focus

Trafficking in Human Beings: Informative action to address the impunity of offenders

18 October 2021

Before the entry into force of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons specially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol), most countries did not comprehensively criminalize trafficking, which left victims unidentified and offenders unpunished – human trafficking was occurring with impunity. Even though countries have today introduced anti-trafficking legislation, impunity remains widespread.

The Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU commissioned ICMPD to conduct a targeted assessment among the Network of Anti-Trafficking Coordinators of South-East Europe (NATC-SEE) to gain insight into current challenges in addressing the impunity and advancing the prosecution of the offenders in SEE. Based on the results of the assessment, ICMPD supported the Slovenian Government in developing Informative Action Messages that tackle the problem of impunity.

On the occasion of 18 October - the EU Anti-Trafficking Day, NATC-SEE issues a Joint statement on fighting the culture of impunity related to trafficking in human beings. The statement reconfirms fighting impunity as the Network’s strategic priority and encourages the development of a robust criminal justice response to conduct effective investigations, increase prosecution rates, achieve a higher number of convictions and apply appropriate sentences. Read the Joint Statement here.

The Slovenian Presidency and NATC-SEE with ICMPD’s support also announce the launching of three weeks of social media action based on the Informative Action Messages. The action is divided in three thematic areas:

Anti-trafficking policies and stakeholders’ cooperation to end impunity

In order to address impunity the state authorities should ensure adequate legislation, functional cooperation among different stakeholders, capacity to respond to the crime of trafficking in human beings, victim-centred law-enforcement response. States should target the rapidly changing modus operandi of traffickers:  encrypted communications, use of social media to recruit and control victims, online selling of services, etc.

Capacity building of law enforcement and judiciary authorities to address impunity

Impunity can be prevented by building the professional capacity of law enforcement and judicial actors. The effectiveness of the criminal justice response can be increased by promoting adequate understanding and interpretation of the crime across all levels of criminal justice system and by avoiding conflicts of jurisdiction. The cross-border and international operational and judicial cooperation between the Western Balkans and the EU member states must be further nourished and facilitated.

Effective support of victims as tool to prevent impunity

Fighting impunity is often perceived as the sole task of law enforcement and justice system. It is also about empowering victims to speak out. Therefore, it is crucial that states adopt victim-centred and trauma-informed approach to the investigation and prosecution of cases, in order to ensure victims’ trust and protection. The prosecution should give up the practice of building cases solely on victims’ statements and should not punish victims for acts they were forced to commit due to being in a trafficking situation. All these elements are key in empowering victims to cooperate with the investigation and to disclose elements that lead to successful prosecution and convictions.

Official social media hashtags of the action are #NoImpunityforTHB, #EndHumanTrafficking and #EUAntiTraffickingDay.