Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Amnesty International UK

  Please find enclosed a copy of a submission by Amnesty International UK to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry on the Western Balkans; many apologies for its late arrival and we hope that its contents can still be considered.

  We also enclose copies of the two reports cited in the submission, "So does that mean I have rights?" Protecting the human rights of women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution in Kosovo, and Enhancing the Protection of the Rights of Trafficked Persons: Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International's Recommendations to strengthen provisions of the July 2004 draft European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings[1]

  With many thanks for your assistance.

Miranda Kazantzis

Policy Adviser

Amnesty International UK

20 September 2004



  1.  Amnesty International is a worldwide membership movement. Our vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We promote all human rights and undertake research and action focussed on preventing grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression and freedom from discrimination.


  2.  In July 2004, the Foreign Affairs Committee invited written submissions to assist its inquiry into UK policy regarding the Western Balkans. This submission sets out a key concern of Amnesty International UK with respect to Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, that of trafficking of women and girls for forced prostitution. It is Amnesty International UK's view that this practice contributes significantly to continuing instability in the region.

  3.  The UK Government's responsibility towards this issue lies in its role as participant in military operations in the region, the presence of which, it is alleged has contributed to the rise in trafficking in the past. It also has responsibility in its role as a member of the UN and NATO that is charged with the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law in both Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In addition, it has significant political and economic influence on the region as a whole, unilaterally in its own capacity; as a member of the Council of Europe; and as a member of the European Union.

  4.  It is also beholden upon the UK to play its part in the development of a new treaty on trafficking to be known as the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (European Convention against Trafficking). This is an important development in the fight against trafficking, in that its purpose is to focus on the human rights of the victims of trafficking. Thus, its aim is to provide a comprehensive framework for the protection and assistance of trafficked persons and witnesses, as well as for the effective prevention, investigation and prosecution of trafficking and those responsible for trafficking and on international co-operation in the field.

  5.  It should not be assumed, because this submission focuses on trafficking, that Amnesty International UK does not have a range of concerns in the region. The accountability of KFOR and SFOR forces, torture and ill-treatment and the situation of minorities are all issues mentioned in relevant entries of the Amnesty International Annual Report 2004. However, we have concentrated on trafficking in the interest of brevity and to highlight a problem that is sometimes overlooked.


  6.  Trafficking in people is a global problem that affects countries in every continent. In 2004, the United States Government estimated that between 600,000-800,000 women, children and men are trafficked across borders each year. Of these, an estimated 120,000-300,000 women and girls are trafficked within Europe.

  7.  The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, November 2002 defines trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery or servitude or the removal of organs."

  8.  The UN definition makes it clear that trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation and also takes place for other forms of labour exploitation. This means that people who migrate for work in areas like agriculture, catering, construction or domestic work, but then find themselves coerced into working in exploitative conditions are also trafficked persons. The Protocol also states that any child transported for exploitative work is considered to be a trafficking victim—whether or not they have been coerced or deceived. This is partly because, in these circumstances, it is considered impossible for children to give informed consent.

  9.  Trafficking is not only an abuse of human rights in itself, but is also made up of a series of abuses including torture, ill-treatment, deprivation of liberty, denial of the right to health and denial of access to justice, redress and reparations. Thus, those trafficking women and girls for forced prostitution are also abusing human rights set out in a number of international human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  10.  According to the UN Protocol, States have a responsibility to prevent, investigate and punish those trafficking others, whether such trafficking is perpetrated by the state or a private person.


  11.  There has been a marked growth of the trafficking of women and girls for forced sexual services throughout the world. The Western Balkans generally are known to be both transit countries as well as destinations used by traffickers of women and girls. Most of the victims come from Eastern Europe—it is estimated that some 60% of trafficked women and girls come from Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, whilst others come from Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Many victims are lured by promises of work in Western Europe as waitresses or similar but are forced into sexual slavery. Many are broken mentally and physically by rape and extreme brutality. The victims are frequently repeatedly sold and moved to different locations, with prices ranging from 50 to 3,500 Euros.


  12.  Kosovo is a major destination country, as well as increasingly a source country, for women and girls trafficked into forced prostitution. As well as women and girls being trafficked into and through Kosovo from outside, increasing numbers of Kosovar Albanians—the majority believed to be minors—are being trafficked internally. NGOs in EU countries report that some Kosovar Albanian women and girls are now being trafficked into EU countries.

  13.  In its recent report "So does that mean I have rights?" Protecting the human rights of women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution in Kosovo[2], Amnesty International documents abuses against women and girls in the country, which include abduction, deprivation of liberty and denial of freedom of movement, often combined with other restrictions, including the withdrawal of travel or identity documents. The organisation also finds that women and girls have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including psychological threats, beatings and rape. In 2002, it was reported that 36% of trafficked women and girls in Kosovo were denied any medical care, while only 10% were provided with regular health care; the majority of trafficked women were forced to have unprotected sex. Amnesty International is particularly concerned that girls under 18 make up between 15 and 20% of those working in bars and suspects that they have been trafficked for forced prostitution.

  14.  The report continues that even after women and girls have escaped their traffickers or have been "rescued" by police, many are subsequently vulnerable to violations by law-enforcement, criminal justice and immigration agencies. Some may have been themselves arrested and imprisoned for prostitution, or status offences, and are denied access to the basic rights of detainees. Those who are recognised as victims of trafficking may have been denied access to their rights to reparation and redress for the abuses they had suffered, and may not have been afforded adequate protection, support and services. Others find that they have little or no protection from their traffickers if they choose to testify in court.

  15.  Amnesty International notes the repeated remarks of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women on the association between the growth of trafficking of women and children and post-war militarisation, complicity by peace-keeping forces, the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, and the necessity for means of ensuring the accountability of such forces. The development of this industry was observed by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women in her address to the UN Human Rights Commission in April 2001, where she referred to reports of a "vast increase in trafficking activity" in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

  16.  Indeed, following the arrival of KFOR (Kosovo peace-keeping mission) in July 1999, significant concentrations of organised prostitution were identified close to KFOR troops locations, with the military making up the majority of the clients, some of whom were allegedly also involved in the trafficking process. KFOR and UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) were publicly identified in early 2000 as a causal factor by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The number of premises where trafficked women were thought to work increased from around 75 in January 2001, to over 200 by the end of 2003. Although the percentage of international clientele has declined, still around 20% of those using the services of trafficked women are thought to be members of the international community. According to the UK Government, no UK personnel in Kosovo have been implicated in offences relating to trafficking, but three Royal Marines were found to have visited an out-of-bounds bar in 2000 and have been disciplined and an Army Lieutenant Colonel found in a brothel, also in 2000, was returned to the UK and subsequently court-martialled.

  17.  Under UN Resolution 1244/99, UNMIK has a responsibility to protect and promote human rights. Furthermore, UN Resolution 1325/2000 addresses violence against women in post-conflict societies, identifying the responsibilities of both peace-keeping forces and civilian administrations with regard to the prevention of post-conflict violence against women. However, the authorities have been slow to respond to the situation and prosecutions for traffickers are rare. Although the UNMIK Police Trafficking and Prostitution Unit was formed in October 2000 and in January 2001 an UNMIK Regulation on Trafficking, which criminalised both traffickers and those knowingly using the services of trafficked women was promulgated, UNMIK has failed to bring any prosecutions. The regulation also made provision for the protection and assistance of trafficked women, but a directive implementing these provisions have yet to come into force.

  18.  Impunity for traffickers and a failure to protect the rights of trafficked women in Kosovo has been, in part, allowed to continue because of the failure of the international community and the Kosovo authorities (Provisional Institutions of Self-Government—PISG) to work effectively with each other—or the relevant international and domestic NGOs—to co-ordinate responses, often appearing to compete with each other for resources and control. This failure has resulted in a failure to protect the rights of trafficked women, and provide them with redress for the violations and abuses that they have suffered. In October 2003, a conference in Kosovo initiated the conception and implementation of a Kosovo Action Plan on Trafficking, under the guidance of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe (SPEEE). Amnesty International seeks to ensure that measures to protect the human rights of women and girls are fully implemented throughout this action plan.

  19.  In addition, UNMIK police and other UNMIK personnel, KFOR personnel and contractors enjoy a general immunity from prosecution, granted under UNMIK Regulation 2000/47. Civilians, including UNMIK police, may therefore only be prosecuted if a waiver is granted by the UN Secretary-General, or in the case of NATO, by their respective national commanders.

  20.  In March 2004, recognising that "Peacekeepers have come to be seen as part of the problem in trafficking rather than the solution", the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) published a policy paper, which aimed to "establish a system to monitor, prevent, minimise, investigate and punish involvement of peacekeeping personnel in…human trafficking and other sexual exploitation and abuse". This initiative is welcomed by Amnesty International, although it is regretted that it has come at such a late stage in the development of peace-keeping operations in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  21.  In 2003, NATO announced that it would be developing a policy on peace-keeping and trafficking. Amnesty International welcomes NATO's adoption of a policy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings in June 2004, endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the Istanbul Summit in June 2004. However, the organisation considers that the policy falls short of the organisation's recommendations and in particular, fails to address, in any detail, measures to ensure the accountability—including the enforcement of disciplinary proceedings or criminal prosecution—of NATO personnel reasonably suspected of involvement in trafficking, or in the knowing use of the services of trafficked women.

  22.  In the absence of appropriate action by UNMIK, KFOR and the PISG, support and assistance for those who have been trafficked is provided by the IOM and local non-governmental organisations. In the meantime, trafficking for forced prostitution remains widespread and allegations of official complicity continue.


  23.  Serbia and Montenegro remain a source, transit and destination country for women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution. In cases where those involved in trafficking have been brought to justice, the courts impose lenient sentences. On 5 March, Belgrade District Court found Milovoje Zarubica and 12 others guilty of involvement in trafficking women and girls from Moldova. They received sentences ranging from five months to three and a half years imprisonment on charges which included rape, mediation in prostitution, forgery, illegal deprivation of liberty and illegal border crossing; the defendants were released from custody pending appeal.

  24.  In June the US State Department in its annual report of trafficking noted that in Serbia; "Official corruption is a continuing problem; off-duty police officers were caught providing security at venues where trafficking victims were located. Most of these individuals received only administrative sanctions, but one officer was charged with a criminal offence". For Montenegro, the report noted that "of the 15 cases submitted to the prosecution since 2002, there have been no convictions. Official corruption remains a problem; victims named police and government officials who were among their clients but the government did not take legal action."

  25.  In May 2003, a high profile trial of the Montenegrin deputy state prosecutor and three other men for involvement in sex slavery collapsed. The authorities agreed to an investigation by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe (CoE), which in September submitted a report highly critical of the authorities handling of the case.


  26.  In Bosnia-Herzegovina, by contrast, some positive developments have been noted in the prosecution of those responsible for serious human rights abuses against women and girls in the context of trafficking and forced prostitution. However, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina issued a report which found that the State Commission, a special law enforcement body charged with implementation of a National Action Plan against trafficking, and law enforcement agencies were not given adequate support by the state government and that there were severe shortcomings in the provision of shelter to vulnerable victims. These concerns were shared by local human rights and women's organisations. In addition, gaps and ambiguities in the domestic legal framework hampered effective prosecutions. For example, the delayed adoption of the new Law on Asylum and amendments to the Law on the Movement and Stay of Foreigners further restricted the prevention of trafficking and protection for victims who continued to be treated largely as illegal migrants.

  27.  Amnesty International is further concerned that a new EU military operation (to be known as "ALTHEA") will take over from the NATO-led SFOR (Bosnia peace-keeping force) in December 2004 and warns that it must not be allowed to repeat the mistakes of SFOR in its role in promoting the development of trafficking in Bosnia-Herzegovina.


  28.  In Macedonia, changes in the Criminal Code came into effect in April, and the minimum prison sentences for human trafficking was raised from five years to eight years. The US State Department in its annual report on Trafficking of 14 June noted that "institutional deficiencies in the judiciary hindered greater progress in combating trafficking". Tetovo crime police statistics for 2003 published by the daily Vreme showed that in the Tetovo region 80 police raids on suspected brothels with trafficked women found 95 people "without regulated residence in Macedonia" resulting in 38 charges being brought against owners of the relevant premises, but only one conviction. The newspaper noted that the Tetovo prosecution had difficulties finding relevant evidence and that witnesses were often afraid to testify and sometimes the subject of death threats. The daily Fakti on 8 June reported that in Dabile village between Delchevo and Strumica near the Macedonia-Bulgaria-Greece border there was a public market where girls from the Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Belarus, Moldavia and other countries were being sold and bought for US$1,000-3,000 dollars by traffickers from a number of places in Macedonia.


  29.  Within the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers has mandated the Ad Hoc Committee on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CAHTEH) to draft a European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings by December 2004. The Committee of Ministers specifically requested the CAHTEH to focus "on the human rights of victims of trafficking" as well as focussing on prevention, investigation, prosecution and international cooperation and to "design a comprehensive framework for the protection and assistance of trafficked persons and witnesses".

  30.  The Committee of Ministers has instructed CAHTEH to take into account existing international and regional standards dealing with trafficking, with a view to developing these standards so as to improve the protection afforded by them to trafficked persons.

  31.  Amnesty International warmly welcomes the Committee of Ministers mandate to the CAHTEH. It feels however, that some of the provisions made in the July 2004 draft of the Convention require further strengthening, particularly with regard to the definition of the victim; support, assistance and protection measures; access to medical care and education; vocational training and work; compensation and legal redress; identification, recovery and reflection periods; residency and repatriation; non-punishment and protection in judicial proceedings; and with regard to criminalisation, jurisdiction and monitoring. Further details regarding the concerns of Amnesty International with regard to this draft can be found in its joint paper with Anti-Slavery International Enhancing the Protection of the Human Rights of Trafficked Persons: Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International's Recommendations to strengthen provisions of the July 2004 draft European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings[3].


  32.  In identifying trafficking within and from the Western Balkans as a series of human rights violations and abuses under international law, Amnesty International UK calls on the UK Government—under its international obligations—to show due diligence in preventing, investigating and prosecuting these abuses where they take place involving women and children from the region in the UK. It also has a duty to provide effective legal remedies, redress and reparation to victims of such violations and abuses, where they have been trafficked from this region into the UK, and should bring pressure to bear upon the relevant authorities to ensure the same within the region itself;


  33.  That the UK Government ensures that there is no impunity for its international personnel operating within UNMIK, KFOR, Office of the High Representative (OHR) or SFOR missions in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina and that it brings pressure to bear upon its partners within the above missions in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina to ensure that international and national personnel operating within their missions reasonably suspected of abuses of human rights and criminal offences in connection with trafficking, including the knowing use of the services of trafficked women and girls, are brought to justice;

  34.  And that it brings pressure to bear on fellow member states in the above missions to agree that to ensure consistency the decision to waive immunity for military personnel is taken by the UN Secretary General rather than by the commanders of the respective national contingents;

  35.  Furthermore, that the UK government works with its partners in the European Union to ensure that the future ALTHEA mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina adopts a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of sexual exploitation, including prohibiting through disciplinary and criminal sanctions, the use of women and girls trafficked into forced prostitution.


  36.  That the UK government plays its part within the development of NATO policy towards trafficking to ensure that all NATO personnel involved in peace-keeping or other deployments are, during training, made aware of the range of human rights abuses to which trafficked women and girls are subjected, and the criminal nature of these abuses; that personnel reasonably suspected of involvement in trafficking or of knowingly using the services of trafficked women and girls are (in addition to any disciplinary procedures) brought to the attention of the prosecuting authorities; and that any immunity granted to such personnel under the UN Convention or the relevant Status of Forces Agreement is waived so that they may be subject to prosecution by the domestic authorities;

  37.  That the UK Government brings pressure to bear upon the UN DPKO to ensure the effective enforcement of all relevant codes of conduct on personnel operating in the region; that any personnel reasonably suspected of a criminal offence will be subject to investigation and prosecution in criminal proceedings; and that the UN establish an effective system of follow-up and reporting on the results of such investigations.


  38.  That the UK Government, as a contributor of personnel and funds to UNMIK, brings pressure to bear upon the organisation to ensure the implementation of applicable law in relation to trafficking in Kosovo; and that measures to protect the rights of trafficked women, as recommended by Amnesty International in its report "So does that mean I have rights?" Protecting the human rights of women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution in Kosovo[4], and including the prevention of trafficking and addressing demand, as well as recommendations for reparation and compensation, access to justice and assistance and support are incorporated into the Kosovo Action Plan on Trafficking and other appropriate regional actions plans, policies and directives;

  39.  That the UK Government use its influence politically and economically with regard to policy towards Serbia and Montenegro to engage in a dialogue directly and through the EU and Council of Europe regarding its concerns about trafficking; and specifically that charges of official corruption within police and public authorities is hindering its effective prosecution;

  40.  That the UK Government bring its influence to bear upon OHR and the Bosnian authorities to support the State Commission and the National Action Plan against trafficking with regard to law enforcement and address gaps and ambiguities within the domestic legal framework which hamper effective prosecutions;

  41.  That the UK Government support the development of an effective system of investigation, prosecution and trial of trafficking offences in Macedonia, including regarding witness protection, by providing legal and other expertise and training to the police and judiciary.


  42.  That the UK Government in its capacity as a member of the CoE ensure that amendments are made to the provisions of the July 2004 draft of the European Convention against Trafficking to ensure that it becomes a comprehensive, gender and child-sensitive framework for the protection and assistance of trafficked persons and witnesses, as well as to prevent trafficking and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for trafficking and related offences;

  43.  Furthermore, Amnesty International UK calls on the UK Government as a member of the Council of Europe to widely disseminate the drafts of the text of the European Convention against Trafficking with a view to holding consultations with members of civil society, including NGOs and other experts who work with and on behalf of trafficked persons, throughout the drafting process;

  44.  Finally, it requests that the UK Government adopts and promotes the suggestions of Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International in their joint report Enhancing the Protection of the Human Rights of Trafficked Persons: Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International's Recommendations to strengthen provisions of the July 2004 draft European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings[5].

1   Not printed. Back

2   AI Index: EUR 70/010/2004 Back

3   AI INDEX: IOR 61/016/2004 Back

4   EUR 70/010/2004 op.cit. Back

5   EUR 61/016/2004 op.cit.


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