12 December 2003

Top South East European Officials Meet to Discuss Law Enforcement and Anti-Trafficking Strategies

VIENNA, 12 December (UN Information Service) -- Senior government officials from 13 South East European countries are gathering in Vienna on 15-16 December to discuss strategies to curb human trafficking in the region. The meeting, jointly convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Romania, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will launch a comprehensive law enforcement training programme for general police and special anti-trafficking investigators. Two sets of manuals, developed from the best local practices in the region, will be handed officially to UNODC to support the implementation of the Palermo Protocols. UNODC will soon begin distributing the manuals around the world.

Trafficking in people is a crime against the human rights of its victims. According to UNODC, most countries in South Eastern Europe (SEE) are "high-transit" countries. Trafficking from, to and through the region appears to take place primarily for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Victims are reportedly also forced to work as domestics or in agriculture. With regards to both forms of exploitation, women and children are the victims predominantly referred to. Well-trained law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges knowledgeable about the special issues involved in human trafficking are a necessary part of all effective strategies to counter this crime.

SEE countries have already adopted a three-pronged approach under the auspices of the Stability Pact Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings (SPTF). The strategy targets general police, special anti-trafficking investigators, and prosecutors and judges.

Part of the anti-trafficking programme involves the use of materials that have been validated, piloted and subsequently endorsed as regional standards in the 13 beneficiary countries.  The training materials are the first to be based on the UN Anti-Trafficking Protocol and reflect a human rights based (and victim-centred) approach, as elaborated in the Guidelines of the UN Office for Human Rights (UNHCHR). These Guidelines serve to enhance effective law enforcement and higher conviction rates, whilst ensuring the protection of victims.

The SEE anti-trafficking training strategy developed by ICMPD and UNDP is unique. Nowhere else in the world have countries jointly adopted such a sophisticated training programme, nor have they harmonized their legislation in line with internationally recognized definitions, while at the same time tailoring laws to the needs and experiences of each country.

SEE anti-trafficking efforts offer a useful tool for the implementation of the UN Protocol on human trafficking that will enter into force on 25 December.

Among the countries present at the high-level discussions in Vienna, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro and Turkey have already ratified the Anti-Trafficking Protocol.

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