Press Release

IACHR Calls upon States to Adopt Human Rights Approach to Combat Human Trafficking

July 29, 2015

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Washington, D.C.—On the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, which is July 30th, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls upon States Member of the Organization of American States (OAS) to adopt a human rights-based approach to combat human trafficking, one that includes prevention measures, as well as measures to protect victims and survivors and to punish those responsible.

“In general, the people most likely to become victims of trafficking are those who live in more vulnerable situations”, said IACHR Commissioner Felipe González, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, whose mandate also includes the situation of victims of human trafficking. “They are deceived with promises of better living conditions, and they suffer physical or psychological violence, abuse, and different kinds of exploitation. Nowadays, the various forms of human trafficking are a reflection of modern-day slavery, and of the multiple and continuing human rights violations suffered by these victims every day”.

Women, children, migrants, people of African descent, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons, and members of indigenous communities are some of the groups in vulnerable situations who are more likely to be affected by human trafficking. “The problem of trafficking in persons in the Americas disproportionately affects women and girls, especially those who are also migrants,” said IACHR Commissioner Tracy Robinson, Rapporteur on the Rights of Women. “As trafficking is a form of violence against women, it is essential that the States design and implement differentiated public policies that take into account the disproportionate impact trafficking has on these population groups.”

Trafficking in persons entails the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the use of force, deception, or other means, for the purpose of exploitation. The IACHR has verified that different forms of human trafficking exist in the region, among which forced labor, domestic, agricultural, or mining servitude, the practice of begging, child soldiers, sex tourism exploitation, child pornography, illegal adoptions, and the sale of human organs, can be found. There are also migrant men and boys who are forced to do different types of work for organized crime groups.

“In many countries of the region, trafficking victims and survivors are criminalized instead of being provided with the services and assistance they need,” Rapporteur Felipe González added. “We also don’t see significant increases in investigations and convictions for the crime of trafficking in persons, even though this is an extremely serious violation of the most basic human rights.”

In the case of victims, the use by States of a punitive approach rather than a human rights-based approach to address their situation has created major obstacles in terms of the victims’ ability to reintegrate into society. For example, trafficking victims who are detained by the authorities and charged with prostitution later face barriers in access to education, employment, and housing.

The IACHR calls upon States to strengthen and improve their policies to combat human trafficking and to bolster their cooperation to prevent trafficking, prosecute those responsible, and protect victims, ensuring that they are not jailed and prosecuted for offenses directly related to their being trafficked. “This call by the IACHR goes out to all States in the region, as human trafficking is present in every country in the Americas,” noted the IACHR President, Commissioner Rose Marie Antoine. Given the high level of underreporting, all policies designed should include measures to properly identify and report trafficking, to strengthen training of state officials to improve victim identification procedures, and adapt assistance services to the specific needs of vulnerable groups.

The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the OAS, and derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS in a personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 083/15