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Fight against trafficking needs radical shift to genuinely human rights-based approach: UN expert

02 July 2020


GENEVA (2 July 2020) – Profound changes are needed to fight human trafficking around the world, and to combat it effectively States must use a human rights-based approach rather than viewing it as strictly a law enforcement issue, a UN human rights expert said today.

The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, made the call in presenting her final report to the Human Rights Council as mandate holder. Giammarinaro’s report analysed key gaps in the implementation of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which was adopted in 2000.

“Results have been achieved, especially in the field of sexual exploitation, and especially in countries in which good cooperation with civil society organisations has been established,” Giammarinaro said. “However, the fight against trafficking for labour exploitation is still in an early stage.”

While civil society organisations’ practices have promoted the empowerment of exploited persons, government-led anti-trafficking measures in some countries have produced further violations of trafficked persons’ rights.

The Special Rapporteur reminded States that no other victims of crime are subjected to such restrictive measures – allegedly adopted for their protection – such as their detention in so-called ‘closed shelters’.”

Giammarinaro said that traditional short-term approaches to assistance must be substantially revised. Support should aim not only to recovery, but also at long-term social inclusion through education, training, alternative employment, residence status and access to judicial and non-judicial remedies.

"Assistance must never be made conditional on victims willingness or ability to cooperate with criminal investigation. Trafficked persons are not just witnesses or tools for the prosecution, they are rights holders,” the UN expert said.
Giammarinaro also said that because exploitation is becoming a systemic component of economies worldwide, it’s more important than ever that labour standards and workers’ rights be respected.

“States and businesses must comply with their due diligence obligations, and ensure  that exploitation, especially in the supply chains, is detected and addressed, and that workers have access to remedies including alternative employment, payment of salaries and compensation,” Giammarinaro said.


Ms Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Italy) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms, and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims. Ms Giammarinaro has been a Judge since 1991. She served as a Pre-Trial Judge at the Criminal Court of Rome, and currently serves as a Judge in the Civil Court of Rome. She was the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the OSCE, and served in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security in Brussels, where she was responsible for combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. She drafted the EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Clara Pascual de Vargas ([email protected]) or Roberta Serrentino ([email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / [email protected]) and John Newland ([email protected])

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