October 24, 2017

Tatiana Devia

(translated from Spanish by Isaac Morales)


Commissioners: Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Paulo Vannuchi, Margarette May Macaulay, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño and James L. Cavallaro.


Petitioners: Latin American Observatory of traffic and trafficking in persons in Latin America and the Caribbean (14 countries and more than 120 organizations addressing members between academia and civil society organizations)


During the hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on October 24, 2017, the petitioners, represented by the Observatory, pointed out that there were three main reasons for the hearing: 1) human trafficking is a violation of human rights that occurs frequently within the region and is not sufficiently visible 2) the response of the States of the region with regard to trafficking presents serious difficulties that are common in several countries, and 3) the fight against trafficking is based on instruments of the Inter-American system, so the organs of the system can promote positive change for the elimination of trafficking and trafficking in persons.


Cécile Blouin of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru spoke on regional characterization trafficking and trafficking of people. His presentation explained two major themes: 1) the panoramic view on this issue in the region, and 2) the major challenges that the countries have in facing this problem. In explaining the panoramic view, Blouin highlighted that this problem has not been recorded in a systematic and comprehensive way. The petitioners attributed this to factors such as problems with classifying the crime, which impedes a governments ability to keep a record of the cases, the multiplicity of records that are not interconnected, and the absence of a single national registry due to lack of complaints, lack of identification of victims, or lack of differentiation between missing persons and victims of trafficking and trafficking in persons.


The petitioners explained that the challenges that prevent compliance with international obligations include impunity, and the subject of care and reintegration of victims of trafficking. They unveiled several examples regarding statistics showing extremely low rates of investigations and rulings related to the crime. They also expressed concern regarding the judicial system structural inability to handle the issue; public ignorance of the problem of trafficking; use of gender stereotypes in investigations; lack of resources; and corruption of civil servants and judicial processes. It was explained that examining the structural causes of crime is one of the important measures for prevention.


Fernanda Caballero of ECPAT Latin America talked about trafficking in persons in childhood and adolescence. It was explained that there was a poor approach on the issue of trafficking in children and adolescents in Latin America, which also interferes with the implementation of the Palermo Protocol. On the subject, is identical to illegal adoptions, forced labor, trafficking with criminal, sexual exploitation, forced marriage, and begging, are the most identified purposes. The most pressing problems include lack of knowledge on the subject; little economic investment to public policies that develop this theme; and lack of a differential approach specific to children and adolescents. Also, she indicated that the lack of an instrument that standardizes and unifies criteria on this subject has generated parallel agendas in implementation, which should be complementary to international instruments. For example, to address the issue of trafficking and traffic issues and public policies of exploitation.


José Manuel Grima, of the Council for the Rights of Girls, Boys, and Adolescents presented the list of demands of the petitioners. He requested that the Commission recommend to States that they: 1) create or consolidate reliable and interconnected databases, 2) employ urgent measures to protect the victims, 3) ensure adequate access to justice without impunity and avoiding victimizing those who have been affected, and 4) ensure a stable budget that is sufficient to ensure training of officials. Recommendations were also made to the Commission, including the creation of a special unit on trafficking in persons that allow visibility to and investigate the issue, develop a thematic regional report, and make working visits to the countries to address the issue.


The Commissioner Arosemena de Troitiño acknowledged the work and recommendations of the petitioners and referred to the issue of impunity as the intention of States to evade responsibility. The Commissioner highlighted that there is a multiplicity of rights violated by the crime of trafficking and trafficking in human beings and that measures for greater effectiveness should be demanded. Finally, the Commissioners explained that the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants is very committed to the issue of trafficking, and that all the rapporteurs are committed to addressing this issue. It also emphasized the responsibility of States to investigate traffickers, document information, and register numbers in circumstances in which there is vulnerability during periods of conflict and violence.


Commissioner Macaulay presented Ivonne Pineda of the Office of the United Nations on drugs and crime (UNODC), who made a presentation during the hearing. The Commissioner stated that Pineda’s at the hearing showed the collaboration between the Commission and other international and regional systems in the advancement of human rights. Pineda said that the UN has seen the increase in significant numbers of trafficking. She explained that progress for the protection of victims has been made, but there are several challenges that were identified by the petitioners. She indicated the importance of cooperation between the organizations of civil society and academia, which have a very important role. Finally, she called for an intersectional analysis and mentioned the support provided by the initiative GloAct (Global action against human trafficking and trafficking in human beings).


Author’s Legal Analysis


The fight against human trafficking and trafficking in human beings has bases in several articles of the American Convention on Human Rights. Several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are part of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transitional organized crime. This is part of the known Protocols of Palermo. All Latin American States have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the Worst Forms of the Working Children of the Organization International Labor, is also an international instrument recognized in Latin America. Collectively, these international treaties establish specific protections for children, adolescents, and women, showing the need for differential approaches in prevention, during investigations and at the time of reintegration. The prevalence of the crime of trafficking and trafficking in persons, the lack of records and documentation of information, and the high figures of impunity demonstrate the multiplicity of factors and rights associated with this topic.