WARSAW, 14 May 2012 - The rule of law needs to be strengthened in the fight against human trafficking in order to better protect victims' human rights and ensure them access to justice, participants said today at the opening of an OSCE meeting on the topic.
More than 150 representatives from governments, international organizations and civil society have gathered in Warsaw for the three-day meeting, organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), in co-operation with the Irish OSCE Chairmanship.
Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, ODIHR's Director, highlighted the fundamental importance of the rule of law in efforts to prevent human trafficking.
"Strategies and policies to combat human trafficking will only be successful if they are governed by the principles of rule of law and centered on the protection of the rights of the victims to access justice and regain their human dignity," Lenarčič said.
He added that justice for victims of trafficking goes beyond criminal justice, as victims need to be able to claim their rights in civil and administrative proceedings as well.
Martina Feeney, the Deputy Head of the Irish Permanent Mission to the OSCE, underlined the importance of co-operation between governmental and non-governmental actors in combating trafficking.
"Self-evidently, the nature of human trafficking is particularly insidious and constant vigilance is required to ensure that it is recognized and tackled in all its facets," Feeney said. "It is imperative that State agencies and victim-support organizations continue to work together to deal with this issue."
In a keynote speech, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, stressed that shortcomings in approaches taken by law enforcement and justice systems too often mean that victims of trafficking are not identified as such.
"States should evaluate the impact of their policies on the human rights of trafficked persons," Giammarinaro said. "If the immediate result of law enforcement action is that presumed victims are not assisted but detained or deported, there is a violation of a State's obligations to protect victims, and an urgent need to restore their rights."
Working sessions at the meeting will focus on the primacy of human rights and the rule of law in the fight against human trafficking, ways to promote the effective investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, challenges faced in providing justice to and protecting the human rights of victims, and addressing the root causes of trafficking.