Make traffickers pay for victim justice, OSCE and CoE say

11 October 2012

European governments must confiscate the assets of traffickers to fund compensation for victims to keep them safe from re-trafficking, say the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and the Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (OSCE) and Petya Nestorova (Council of Europe) were speaking at a Special Event today (Thursday, 11 October) at the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Conference in Vienna. The event is organised by COMP.ACT, the European Action for Compensation for Trafficked Persons, led by Anti-Slavery International and La Strada International, and hosted by the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.

As highlighted by Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, “compensation enables trafficked persons to rebuild their lives and start a process of social inclusion, either in the country of origin or destination. Ensuring access to rights and effective remedies, including compensation, is part of an empowerment strategy, and an important tool in the fight against discrimination which underlies human trafficking –  the focus of this year’s Alliance Conference.”

Giammarinaro also emphasized that freezing assets and seizing the proceeds of crime is not only essential to ensure compensation to trafficked persons, it also deters and prevents the crime.

Petya Nestorova underlined that “the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is the first treaty that includes the right to compensation for trafficked people, however, our findings from the implementation of the Convention reveal that compensation remains rare. We need to move from paper to action because there can be no justice for trafficking victims without compensation. Compensation is crucial in the fight against trafficking. Not only is it an instrument of restorative justice and prevention of re-trafficking, but also as recognition by the authorities of the violation of a victim’s rights and the damages they have suffered.”

Compensation includes remuneration of unpaid wages and payment in restitution for both general damages and special damages suffered by a victim of crime. General damages compensate the claimant for the non-monetary aspects of the specific harm suffered, such as physical or emotional pain and suffering.

It is still extremely difficult for trafficking victims to gain compensation, despite existing laws in most European countries that allow crime victims to make claims. Across Europe there are barriers that currently prevent victims from claiming compensation including victims leaving, or being removed from, the country before a verdict, or traffickers moving their assets abroad.

In order to ensure that victims of trafficking receive compensation, the COMP.ACT campaign recommends that evaluations of countries’ efforts to implement the Council of Europe Trafficking Convention also assess availability of compensation, as well as ensure that access to compensation is included in national referral mechanisms and victim assistance programmes. In addition COMP.ACT calls for a widening of confiscation legislation across Europe in order to use seized assets to compensate victims as well as ensure ‘portable justice’ so returned/deported trafficked people are still able to claim and receive compensation.

For further press information contact Paul Donohoe, Anti-Slavery International Press Officer on +44 (0)20 7501 8937.