Considering the challenges associated with investigating and prosecuting traffickers, and cognisant of obligations to respect the rights of victims, there is an urgent need to develop and implement robust legal frameworks and criminal justice strategies, policies and practices, including the provision of necessary training and resources tailored to address such challenges. Such measures have shown to improve the identification of victims and the effectiveness of the criminal justice responses, as shown in the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (p. 22) - see Figure 1:
Gallagher and Holmes (2008) identify eight essential aspects of an effective criminal justice response to trafficking, including:
Each of these elements is examined in detail in the above cited article. This section focuses on three strategies: effective investigation and prosecution initiatives, law reform, and cross-border collaboration between States.
If the global community is to turn the tide against traffickers, it must significantly scale up its efforts and examine the effectiveness of many existing anti-trafficking strategies. In particular, there is a need to establish sophisticated and well-resourced cross-border law enforcement responses to trafficking. This will take time and the cooperation of the global community. It will also take time to foster a better understanding among law enforcement actors and the judiciary of the complex circumstances and evidential challenges of many trafficking in persons cases. Concurrently, there is a need to increase the capacity of national criminal justice actors (including police, immigration, anti-money laundering agencies, prosecutors and judges) to investigate and prosecute traffickers and seize the proceeds of their crimes.
Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors should be offered skills-based training and provided with the funding, resources and equipment needed to effectively discharge their responsibilities. In line with the Compendium of UN Standards and Norms in Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, this should include:
David (2010) emphasizes the importance of properly funding and training law enforcement actors, arguing that, among other things, proper training requires "[r]aising the awareness of senior law enforcement about trafficking in persons both as an issue and as a crime type in the local community. For maximum impact, this training likely needs to include the presentation of real case studies, either from within the local area or from areas with similar characteristics to with the local area".
While the reported numbers of successful prosecutions are low, even these figures may exaggerate the achievements of the anti-trafficking sector. Available information suggests that the majority of cases involve the conviction of just one or two individuals, most of whom are low level actors within trafficking organizations who are readily replaced. Official figures may also underestimate successful prosecutions of traffickers. Where States do not have trafficking-specific legislation, it might be that traffickers are convicted and punished without the use of laws that accord with the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons. Of course, such laws may omit certain elements of the offence of trafficking under the Protocol, otherwise include elements not contemplated, or stipulate punishment insufficient to address the gravity of offending.
Ultimately, trafficking in persons is a business and, like all businesses, it operates based on profit and loss. A criminal justice response must take away these profits and increase the risk of apprehension. To achieve this, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors must endeavour to prosecute and punish "senior" offenders within transnational criminal syndicates. In addition, and in recognition that trafficking thrives in certain situations, crime prevention strategies must also focus on addressing structural conditions that increase risks of trafficking. These include, inter alia, improving socio-economic conditions in communities, protecting persons in conflict and post-conflict circumstances, and adopting child protection procedures to remove children at risk.
Approaches to investigation and prosecution should also consider the need for different strategies for different types of offenders. For example, gender aspects of offending should be incorporated and there should be greater focus on understanding pathways into criminal offending. As Broad (2015, p. 1073) argues, "[a] more responsive approach to trafficking would take seriously the pre-histories of offenders who commit these offenders, taking into account their migration journeys, the nature of their intimate relationships and their multiple experiences of exploitation".
The international community should continue to encourage countries to ratify/accede to the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons and enact domestic legislation criminalizing the offence. As of January 2019, 173 States are party to the Protocol. Additionally, each State should review, and as necessary, reform existing laws to empower law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and judges and remove obstacles to the timely and effective investigation and prosecution of suspected traffickers. In particular, this should:
The transnational nature of trafficking in persons creates challenges for crime detection, identifying members of criminal organizations, gathering and collecting evidence and arresting and extraditing offenders. These challenges, if not addressed, threaten to undermine the administration of justice and the rule of law in many countries. As noted above, international cooperation is critical for the success of investigations and prosecutions.
Article 18(3) of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime provides that States parties shall afford one another the widest measure of mutual legal assistance in investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings in relation to the offences covered by the Convention (see also Module 11 "International Cooperation to Combat Transnational Organized Crime" of the Teaching Module Series on Organized Crime). Mutual assistance may be requested for:
International cooperation requires commitment between States and their agencies, which may itself be challenging. Yet, as the examples that follow show, it can lead to promising outcomes.
In 2006, Polish and Italian police dismantled a network trafficking men for the purpose of forced labour from Poland to Italy. Around 600 men are believed to have been recruited by means of newspaper and internet advertisements and forced into "debts" through transportation and accommodation costs. The men were kept in barracks and watched by armed guards, and forced to work up to 15 hours a day for approximately 1 euro per hour, despite having been offered between 5 and 6 euros per hour. A parallel investigation was conducted by the Italian and the Polish police, with the assistance of INTERPOL and Europol. The operation was coordinated by a special Italian gendarmerie unit located in Rome and by the Central Unit for the Fight against Trade of Human Beings, located at the National Police Headquarters in Warsaw. INTERPOL and Europol assisted in the exchange of information. The operation, entitled "Terra Promessa" was carried out at the place of destination in Italy and in the regions of origin in Poland. Arrests of people involved in the trafficking network (for trade of human beings, deprivation of freedom, use of physical force and threats) were made in both Italy and Poland. The police of both countries also worked in cooperation in gathering information and evidence in the lead-up to the ultimate arrest of traffickers and the liberation of trafficking victims.
The European image archiving system called "False and Authentic Documents" (FADO) makes possible the speedy verification of documents and fast, comprehensive notification of relevant law enforcement or immigration authorities in other participating States when misuse of a document or a fraudulent document is detected.
In addition to State law enforcement organizations, there are several international organizations with a mandate to facilitate international policing and judicial cooperation, such as INTERPOL, Europol, Afripol and Eurojust (see also Module 3). These regional entities are authorized to enter into cooperation agreements with individual countries as long as the latter adhere to the same protection standards, notably for security in the processing of data and protection of personal data.