Iraq: UNODC facilitates judicial exchange on the requirements for the protection of victims of human trafficking

21st June 2021 - Cairo, Egypt
Protecting victims of human trafficking during the investigation and trial phases is the cornerstone of an effective criminal justice response. Too often, victims of human trafficking are not identified in the first place, and when they are identified, their rights are not respected during their interviews and testimony, as well as post-trial. Victims should be informed of their rights, should not face punishment including criminalization, detention, deportation, or other sanctions on account of crimes they were compelled to commit or were directly related to their exploitation.
The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT-Asia and the Middle East), jointly with UNODC’s Regional Office in Cairo, from 14 to 16 June 2021 brought 9 judges from across Iraq to Cairo, Egypt, for a 3-day exchange with Egyptian judges and officials on the legal and judicial requirements for the protection of victims of trafficking in persons (TIP). The Iraqi judges included men and women trial and appeal court judges from across the country, including 2 judges from the Kurdistan region.
Cristina Albertin, UNODC’s Regional Representative, opened the workshop and stressed how “bringing together criminal justice actors within the MENA region is one of our key priorities in our UNODC Regional Programme for the Arab States and also in our recently launched UNODC Strategy 2021-2025”.  Representing the European Union which funds GLO.ACT, Graziella Rizzi encouraged the practical exchange of ideas and best practices among peers. She also commended GLO.ACT for it’s ‘inspiring and innovative' work in ensuring gender equality remains a top priority, through the Gender and Human Rights Toolkit and the GLO.ACT Women’s Network.
The head of the Iraqi delegation, Judge Raid Hamid, from Mosul, highlighted the nexus between conflict and TIP especially relating to Da’esh in his region, and stressed the need to ensure victims’ access to justice.
GLO.ACT Coordinator Aimée Comrie outlined the critical role of the judiciary, since ‘judges breathe life and context into the international framework through national practice’. 
The Iraqi delegation also heard from the Egyptian Chairperson and Head of the National Coordinating Committee on Illegal Migration and Trafficking in Persons. Ambassador Naela Gabr warmly welcomed the spirit of peer exchange and invited UNODC to consider supporting a regional meeting of national TIP committees.
Addressing the judges, GLO.ACT Policy Lead Samantha Munodawafa reiterated that ‘when a crime is committed by a victim of trafficking, international best practice is to uphold the principle of non-punishment of victims as punishment hinders the victim’s ability to recover and seek justice’. UNODC’s Expert, Judge Ihab Minabbawy, stressed that judges must ensure that victims are not subjected to secondary victimization through the criminal justice process.
Judge Mihraban Ahmad Hassan from Sulemaniya, suggested that ‘judges must create a trustful environment for the victims; the objective of the judge is to reach the truth.’
GLO.ACT Regional Adviser, Martin Reeve, based in Baghdad, recalled that children are protected in international law. ‘Bringing a child before the court doesn’t accomplish anything.  We should look for the responsible adult, man or woman, who is organizing this.’ Iraq’s current law on TIP requires the establishment of means of exploitation for children which is an area of suggested legal reform. Dr. Ibtisam stressed the importance of the identification of victims, especially children, at the earliest moment. 
Days 1 and 2 of the workshop were given over to round-table discussion on international and national legal frameworks, means of control used by traffickers, and an examination of the victim’s experience of trafficking. On day 3 Iraqi judges drafted a guidance note for investigating and trial judges for their consideration when dealing with potential trafficking cases.  The guidance note was drafted based only on content agreed by the Iraqi judges present at the workshop to ensure full compatibility with Iraqi laws and traditions. As a next step, the guidance note will be presented to the Iraqi Judicial Council for review and endorsement.
The delegation was accompanied by the Iraqi Director General of Women’s Affairs at the Council of Ministers, Dr. Ibtisam Aziz, who is also the Deputy Chair of the Advisory Board of the GLO.ACT Women’s Network.
This project is funded by the European Union
The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants – Asia and the Middle East (GLO.ACT-Asia and the Middle East) is a four-year (2018-2022), €12 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in up to five countries: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Afghanistan), Islamic Republic of Iran (I.R. of Iran), Republic of Iraq (Iraq), Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Pakistan). GLO.ACT-Bangladesh is a parallel initiative also financed by the EU and implemented with IOM.
The project builds on a global community of practice set in motion in GLO.ACT 2015-2019 and assists governmental authorities and civil society organizations in targeted, innovative, and demand-driven interventions: sustaining effective strategy and policy development, legislative review and harmonization, capability development, and regional and trans-regional cooperation. The project also provides direct assistance to victims of human trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and protection mechanisms. The project is fully committed to mainstreaming Human Rights and Gender Equality considerations across all of its activities.