Trafficking victims who commit crimes under coercion should not be punished, says OSCE Special Representative
( OSCE ) - The OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, issued on 25 April 2013 a series of policy and legislative recommendations to help ensure that judicial and law enforcement officials do not prosecute trafficking victims for crimes they have been compelled to commit by their exploiters. Among such crimes is the use of false documents or forced labour in a cannabis factory.
"Traffickers use victims to commit crimes for their own profit; and victims are the ones to bear criminal penalties while the real offenders operate with impunity," Giammarinaro said. "If the trafficked persons are not prosecuted, detained and punished, this will also help reduce their reluctance to appear in court and allow law enforcement bodies to bring the exploiters to justice".
The 29 recommendations include advice on how to handle cases in which child victims are forced to commit pickpocketing or other crimes, as well as the proposal that States adopt an open-ended list of offences typically related to trafficking in human beings to enable easier application of the non-punishment principle during such proceedings. Giammarinaro underlined that specific provisions should be introduced into national legislation to ensure that, when there are indications that a victim has been compelled to commit a crime, prosecution is not started or is terminated at an early stage. Trafficking victims should also be exempted from detention and administrative sanctions that can affect their migration status.
"The principle of non-punishment is already spelled out in the legislation of a number of nations, as well as in Article 26 of The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings," Giammarinaro said. "It is essential that law enforcement bodies and the judiciary uphold this key principle."
The recommendations are included in a new paper written in consultation with the OSCE's Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Expert Co-ordination Team including leading international organizations and NGOs dealing with human trafficking. Giammarinaro presented the paper at a side event of the 22nd session of the UNODC's Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna.