The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) -through the TRACK4TIP Initiative- and the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic in Vienna organized the Side Event Strengthening the capacity of criminal justice practitioners in the Americas to combat human trafficking in the context of migratory flows: How to incorporate international standards in the national response? in the framework of the 30th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ).
Gilberto Zuleta, Regional Officer of the UNODC Global Programme against Human Trafficking was the moderator of the event. He was joined by Jatzel Román González, Vice Minister of Consular and Migratory Affairs of the Dominican Republic; Elizabeth Salmón, Executive Director of the Institute of Democracy and Human Rights at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (IDEHPUCP); Romina Sijniensky, Deputy Secretary of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; Ángel Fernando Castro, Prosecutor against Organized Crime of the Attorney General's Office of Colombia; Natividad Ramona Santos, Judge of the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The high-level event aimed to discuss the challenges of criminal justice to combat human trafficking in migratory contexts and share good experiences that have strengthened the capacities of justice operators of the invited countries since the implementation of TRACK4TIP (Transforming Alerts into Criminal Justice Responses), an initiative developed by UNODC with funding from the U.S. Department of State.
"The crime of human trafficking appears as one of the most dangerous risks affecting migrants. The particularities of this crime, such as its differentiated impact based on age and gender, or the lack of knowledge of the profile of perpetrators and victims as a result of the high underreporting of the crime, impose a series of challenges for States," said Mr. Zuleta during the presentation of the event.
In this regard, Jatzel Román González, commented that the Dominican Republic is making changes to its legislation on human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. "To the training of our police, prosecutors and judges we must add the importance of international cooperation to maintain regional and international standards that allow us to confront this crime while safeguarding the human rights of the victims."
Precisely, combating human trafficking efficiently and providing justice to victims was the focus of Elizabeth Salmón of Peru's presentation, emphasizing not only the role of judicial authorities but also the general and specific obligations of the States to respect rights and freedoms. "A much more active role with respect to the protection of human rights; when States create barriers, they violate the mandate of non-discrimination," she said and described the indispensable elements for an adequate approach to trafficking cases: In the identification, investigation and prosecution and in the area of protection and assistance, interpretation of the norm based on the standards of the Inter-American System; the commitment to non-impunity in the migratory context to avoid repetition; specialized courts with a gender perspective, with a focus on intersectionality, international cooperation; and coordination with other state officials such as labor and migration authorities to design and implement tools aimed at empowering potential and actual victims.
Meanwhile, Romina Sijniensky, from her extensive experience as Deputy Secretary of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, stressed the importance of incorporating international standards to analyze the vulnerabilities faced by migratory flows, deepened by the COVID19 pandemic. "The Inter-American Court has developed international standards, with the application of a gender perspective, identification, protection and assistance. It is necessary to deepen the dissemination campaigns to the population at risk and the establishment of comprehensive reparation".
For his part, Colombian prosecutor Ángel Fernando Castro, did not overlook the fact that the countries of the region are victims of different manifestations of transnational organized crime that take advantage of the limited capacities of each State. "The pandemic has shown us that it is necessary to standardize instruments of strategic and procedural utility for all prosecutors in the continent. In this regard, the support of UNODC, TRACK4TIP and the U.S. State Department has been fundamental".
Finally, the judge from the Dominican Republic, Natividad Ramona Santos, identified human trafficking as a crime of "low risk and high profits for criminal networks", which is why the cases do not cease. Faced with this, her country opted to create spaces of permanent attention spaces in the judicial area that are distributed throughout the country and work 24/7. "Victims' testimonies can be recorded, they can be made from virtual environments and are considered evidence testimony, which avoids revictimization."
About the TRACK4TIP program
TRACK4TIP is a three-year initiative (2019-2022), implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with support from the U.S. Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons / JTIP.
The project benefits eight countries in South America and the Caribbean with national and regional actions in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao and Aruba.
The overall objective of the project is to improve the regional criminal justice response to human trafficking in the migratory flows of the beneficiary countries through a multidisciplinary and victim-centered approach, with actions at the regional and national levels to identify, prevent and prosecute cases.
This press release was made possible with the support of the U.S. Department of State under the terms of Agreement No. SSJTIP19CA0027. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of State.