Human trafficking is a truly global phenomenon and a crime which affects nearly every part of the world, whether as a source, transit or destination country. According to the 2012 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, victims from at least 136 different nationalities were trafficked and detected in 118 different countries.
More than a decade after the adoption of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, most countries have criminalized most forms of human trafficking in their legislation. The 2012 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons shows that, of the 162 countries and territories concerned, only 9 do not have a specific legislation against trafficking in persons. However, the use of these laws to prosecute and convict traffickers remains limited and there is a great need to increase both the capacity and awareness of the law enforcement to better respond to trafficking. In the 2012 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, for instance, of the 132 countries covered, between 2007 and 2010, 16 per cent did not record a single conviction for trafficking offences and 23 per cent recorded only less then 10 convictions.
An added issue behind the legal aspects of human trafficking is a lack of knowledge and understanding on the global stage. In those cases where prosecutions have been undertaken, very little is currently known about them internationally. This often leaves questions open such as how do practitioners use the respective laws and what - if any - are the characteristics of successful prosecutions?
To help answer these questions, UNODC has developed a human trafficking case law database to provide immediate, public access to officially documented instances of this crime. The database contains details on victims' and perpetrators' nationalities, trafficking routes, verdicts and other information related to prosecuted cases from across the world. In doing so, it provides not only mere statistics on numbers of prosecutions and convictions, but also the real-life stories of trafficked persons as documented by the courts. The database aims to assist judges, prosecutors, policy-makers, media researchers and other interested parties by making available details of real cases with examples of how the respective national laws in place can be used to prosecute human trafficking. Since its launch, around 800 selected cases from over 70 countries and three supranational courts have been uploaded.
By creating the database, UNODC is working to increase the visibility of successful prosecutions and at the same time promote awareness of the realities of this devastating crime. Such a database of human trafficking cases enables users to take experiences and court decisions from other countries into account when dealing with human trafficking issues, consult on practices in different jurisdictions and broaden their knowledge of human trafficking crimes.
The fourth session Intergovernmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons recognised the database by recommending to the Conference of the Parties to the Organized Crime Convention to "call upon States parties to support and submit cases to the UNODC human trafficking case law database, in order to review and identify new trends and good practices from those cases." (CTOC/COP/WG.4/2011/8, para. 49).