Strasbourg, 23.01.2008 – The Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS no 197) enters into force on 1 February 2008. The Convention aims to prevent trafficking, protect the human rights of victims and prosecute traffickers. It applies to all victims of trafficking: women, men and children alike; to all forms of exploitation (sexual exploitation, forced labour, servitude, removal of organs etc.) and it covers all forms of trafficking: national and transnational, related or not to organised crime.
The treaty enters into force on 1 February 2008 with regard to the first ten countries which ratified the Convention: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia. It will enter into force with regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina, France and Norway on 1 May 2008.
The Convention, which was opened for signature in Warsaw in May 2005 at the 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, has been signed, but not yet ratified by 24 other member states: Andorra, Armenia, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, „the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia“, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
Ten member states – Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Estonia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Monaco, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey – have not yet signed it. Non member states and the European Community can also become Party to the Convention.
This main features of the new Convention, the first European treaty in this field, include:
- Awareness-raising for persons vulnerable to trafficking and actions aimed at discouraging „consumers“ to prevent trafficking in human beings.
- Victims of trafficking must be recognized as such in order to avoid police and public authorities treating them as illegal migrants or criminals.
- Victims of trafficking will be granted physical and psychological assistance and support for their reintegration into society. Medical treatment, counseling and information as well as appropriate accommodation are all among the measures provided. Victims are also entitled to receive compensation.
- Victims are entitled to a minimum of 30 days to recover and escape from the influence of the traffickers and to take a decision regarding their possible cooperation with the authorities. A renewable residence permit may be granted if their personal situation so requires or if they need to stay in order to cooperate in a criminal investigation.
- Trafficking will be considered as a criminal offence: traffickers and their accomplices will therefore be prosecuted.
- The private life and the safety of victims of trafficking will be protected throughout the course of judicial proceedings.
Possibility to criminalise those who use the services of a victim if they aware that the person is a victim of trafficking in human beings.
The Convention provides the possibility of not imposing penalties on victims for their involvement in unlawful activities, if they were compelled to do so by their situation.
The Convention provides for the setting up of an independent monitoring body capable of controlling the obligations contained in it. To this end, within one year of the entry into force, the Council of Europe will set up the Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), formed by ten to fifteen experts.
Trafficking in human beings is a worldwide phenomenon often linked to organized crime. According to the International Labour Organisation, up to 2.45 million people throughout the world are victims of human trafficking every year. The illicit profits of this trade amount to 33 billion dollars annually, making it the third most profitable criminal activity after illegal drugs and arms trafficking.