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Epstein Files: No person should be beyond the reach of justice, say UN experts

19 January 2024

GENEVA (19 January 2024) – UN experts* warned today that no person should be above the law and beyond the reach of justice, after a final round of legal documents were released in court proceedings relating to US financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of teenage girls.

The recent unsealing of nearly 1000 pages of court records provides an insight into the extent of Epstein's alleged sex trafficking activities and operations. The alleged crimes are horrific and include sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, rape, sex trafficking, slavery, torture, and forced disappearance of women and children. Many appear to have been forced to remain in exploitative situations through coercion.

“The vast network of underage victims and survivors who were lured into the perverse world of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell is deeply disturbing, as was their ability to operate for so many years,” the UN experts said.

Given the nature of these criminal activities and the ongoing investigations at the international level, the experts urge law enforcement to ensure full, swift and transparent investigations and that judicial proceedings are conducted with immediate effect. “All those who may have participated in, or aided and abetted, these heinous crimes of violence against women and children, including through paying for sex and pimping, must be brought to justice,” the experts said.

“The way in which this case is dealt with by law enforcement and the judiciary will set an important precedent for the future. It will either send the message that such crimes against women and children are unacceptable or confirm that power and connections will shield those responsible from accountability,” the experts said.

The experts paid tribute to victims and survivors who have bravely come forward to denounce these crimes, despite the risks it entailed. They also emphasized the need to ensure the that the privacy of victims and survivors is protected to avoid exposing them to further stigmatization and trauma. The UN experts underlined the importance of witness and victim protection and of full, sustainable, transformative, victim- and survivor-centric reparations to avoid exposing victims and survivors to risks of further stigmatization, trauma and secondary victimization.

“It is widely recognized that victims and survivors can benefit greatly from the development and prompt implementation of urgent interim reparative measures. In turn, this would require strong and sustained commitment and action to ensure that no one responsible for committing gender-based violence against women and children enjoys impunity,” the experts said.

“One thing is clear, cases like the Epstein file, demonstrate the continued failure by the international community to prevent the exploitation and abuse of women and children,” the experts said. “All this must urgently be addressed through preemptive responses and accountability, an aspect which is often forgotten,” they said.

The experts: Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on the sale, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children;

Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent expert in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures expert work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) and Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

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