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OSCE Special Representative calls for business community to step up efforts to eliminate human trafficking

( OSCE ) -  The OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, on 25 October 2013 told an international conference in Lisbon of judges and prosecutors that national laws criminalising trafficking in human beings must be fully applied to deter the crime of modern day slavery and ensure victim rights protection.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, speaks to the 11th High-level Alliance against Trafficking in Persons conference. Vienna, 20 June 2011. (OSCE/Susanna Lööf)

She noted that the crime of human trafficking has been introduced in the penal codes of most countries in compliance with the United Nations' Palermo Protocol, but that such laws are rarely applied fully, while indictments are often raised for less serious crimes.

"Too often, trafficking cases, especially for labour exploitation, are not qualified as such, and therefore criminal networks are not disrupted. It is time to be proactive, to bring landmark cases to court, and to promote innovative jurisprudence," Giammarinaro said.

The Special Representative stressed the importance of interpreting and applying penal laws on trafficking not only when extreme violence has been used, but also when victims have been manipulated and compelled to stay in exploitative situations.

"We, prosecutors and judges, have to learn how people react in a situation of multiple dependencies, when for example they depend on their exploiters for food, water and accommodation. Even if they are not locked in a workplace or an apartment, they can think that there is no viable alternative but to submit to traffickers." 

Giammarinaro underlined that compensation for unpaid wages as well as physical and emotional damage suffered by victims is an essential component of a strengthened criminal justice response to human trafficking, as well as a strategy aimed at the social inclusion of trafficked persons.

Portugal's Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Equality Teresa Morais, Attorney General Joana Marques Vidal, and the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, were among other key officials at the conference, which was concluded by the Minister of Justice Paula Teixeira da Cruz.  The conference was attended by more than 100 members of the judiciary.