The importance of implementing the non-punishment provision: the obligation to protect victims”

30 July 2020

On World Day against Trafficking in Persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, publishes a final paper at the end of her six-year mandate on the States’ critical need to recognise their obligations to apply the non-punishment principle. She further calls for the full respect of human rights of all victims of trafficking who commit unlawful acts as a direct consequence of being trafficked.

This significant paper arises from an important collaboration with the leading independent expert in the field, Professor Parosha Chandran of King’s College London. As the paper provides:

“ Human trafficking victims are often held liable for unlawful activities committed by them in consequence of their situation as victims, not only in relation to the specific forms of exploitation they may be subjected to (e.g. for soliciting prostitution or engaging in illegal work, or for drugs cultivation or other illicit form of exploitation or forced labour) but also for incidental or consequential acts, namely any immigration, administrative or civil offences committed by them, either in the course of being trafficked or as a direct consequence of their trafficking situation. This includes where, for example, a victim is prosecuted for their possession of false documents or their illegal entry or stay in a country. In all these scenarios it is critical that the human trafficking of the victim is detected instead, and the victim is protected and not prosecuted or punished in violation of their right to respect for their human rights.”

The mandate-holder hopes that this paper will lead to clear, practical developments by States in their understanding, appreciation and application of the non-punishment principle. The paper carefully recognises not only the clear legal obligations on all States to apply the non-punishment principle, but it reflects, above all, the rights of victims of trafficking to obtain human rights protection across the world. “We must not forget that it is in the names of the victims that we act, and in their names the Palermo Protocol was created”, she concludes.