The United Nations independent expert on human trafficking today commended Belarus – which is creeping towards becoming a source, transit and destination country for victims – for its efforts to combat the scourge.
“I am very impressed by the political commitment demonstrated at the highest level to combat all forms of trafficking in Belarus,” Joy Ngozi, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said as she wrapped up a week-long visit to the country on 24 May.
“Trafficking in persons is a huge global problem that has turned into one of the fastest-growing criminal activities in the world today, affecting virtually every country either as source, transit and/or destination country for women, children and men trafficked for the purposes of sexual labour or labour exploitation,” she stated.
During the visit, which was carried out at the invitation of the Government, Ms. Ngozi met with senior officials and representatives of state institutions and non-governmental organizations working to combat trafficking. She also visited a shelter run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Territorial Center in the capital, Minsk, which provides a range of social assistance.
Belarus has ratified the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons to the 2000 UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol), under which States are required to take action to ensure the protection of trafficking victims, prevent trafficking and bring traffickers to justice.
The country “is on the verge of occupying the unenviable status of being a source, transit and destination country, which undoubtedly is a growing concern to the Government and hence the good leadership it has shown in this field,” the Rapporteur said.
Belarus has introduced legislation and amended its criminal code to effectively combat the scourge, while an action plan has been developed and is being implemented, she added.
A high number of cases, also resulting in a high number of convictions, are being prosecuted. “The evidence of this huge success in prosecution indicates that the trafficking problem is not only real and serious in Belarus, but also that measures are being undertaken to deal with the menace,” Ms. Ngozi noted.
She pointed out some areas in which the country could improve on this issue, such as boosting assistance to victims, ensuring that victims are not stigmatized, and addressing domestic violence which can perpetuate gender inequalities that can increase people’s vulnerability to trafficking.
The Rapporteur, who was appointed to her position last June, reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.