Lawyers and Human Rights Workers Agree on a Plan of Action to Increase Access to Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking
Monday, June 19, 2006 8:55 AM
9 June, 2006, Bangkok, Thailand – senior human rights lawyers, victim-protection NGOs, police, prosecutors and survivors of human trafficking from ten countries (Thailand, Cambodia, India, Spain, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico and the United States) gathered for a three-day meeting in Bangkok organized by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW). This was the first time that this wide spectrum of actors working on access to justice for survivors of trafficking had been gathered together to share their concrete experiences of bringing cases to the courts, identify successes and good practices that can be replicated elsewhere and proposed common strategies to overcome challenges.
During the final day of the Consultation participants agreed on a Global Plan of Action, which clearly outlines a practical roadmap for priority action to increase cross-border cooperation between lawyers and NGOs on trafficking cases. The Plan extends the important work being done nationally in this area into the international arena and marks a new stage in this developing area of law. The concrete activities decided include establishing a database of legal organisations in all countries which handle trafficking cases, sharing best practices and the strategies and results of groundbreaking cases, and collaborating on the investigation of cases and the protection of victims in countries of destination and origin.
The Plan will receive technical support from the International Secretariat of GAATW, which also will continue to take up the right of access to justice at the international level.
In her opening address, international coordinator of GAATW, Bandana Pattanaik, reaffirmed "the commitment of the international human rights and legal community to work together to understand the impact of the justice process on survivors of trafficking and to fight for fairer trial procedures, more compensation and better protections." She noted the important role that justice plays in helping victims move on from their experiences, and how preventing access to justice can mean victims are never able to heal. Financial compensation is also a human right and can help victims begin new lives. Ms Pattanaik called upon the participants to "join hands with us, to look at where we are succeeding and how we can work together to advance human rights for survivors of this terrible crime."
Elba Coria, a lawyer from Sin Fronteras in Mexico who has fought for the rights of people trafficked into the garment industry in her country, stated: “Access to justice is a problem all over the world: victims are not told their rights by police and immigration officials, they are sent home before they can make a claim and people are afraid of going public about their experiences because of the shame and the risk of reprisals from powerful traffickers. Even if they win, there is never any money to pay the compensation ordered.” She said of the meeting: “This meeting helps us realize that we are not alone – that survivors of modern-day slavery around the world suffer the same difficulties in getting justice for the crimes committed against them, and we can work together to help them.”
Catia, who was trafficked from Brazil into sexual exploitation in Spain and has fought for justice in her case for five years said: “I believe in justice. I have never doubted my decision to seek justice because I want others not to suffer like I have. I deserve to be repaid my wages and be compensated for what I went through, but it has been very difficult and I have met challenges every step of the way. Even now, after winning my cases, I have never received any compensation.” Her case is now being taken up by Projeto Trama who will use this Plan to work with Spanish NGOs on her case.
Ms Pattanaik said that this meeting was a major step-forward in seeing the justice system not only for the prosecution of traffickers, but also to help the victims of human trafficking to regain control of their lives.
"The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), founded in 1994, is an international network of over 50 autonomous non-government organisations working on human trafficking and women’s labour migration issues. "
Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
191/41 Sivalai Condominium
Soi 33 Itsaraphap Road, Bangkok Yai
Bangkok 10600 Thailand
Tel. no. (662) 864-1427/28
For further information contact:
Ms. Nerea Bilbatua
Ms. Eleanor Taylor-Nicholson
GAATW International Secretariat
Published in: "Lawyers From 10 Countries Announce Concrete Roadmap For Increasing Justice For Victims Of Human Trafficking," Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, http://www.gaatw.net/ (9 June 2006).