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European Convention Against Trafficking in People: Call for victims' rights to be put at heart of new law

As the Council of Europe's Parliament meets this week to give its formal Opinion on the draft European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings, Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International are calling on the parliamentarians to ensure that the human rights of trafficked persons are fully protected.

The human rights organizations are recommending that the Convention include clear provisions to provide assistance and support to victims of trafficking, to prevent the prosecution of trafficked people for immigration offences, and to ensure that there are no safe havens for traffickers.

Jill Heine, Legal Adviser for Amnesty International, said:

"While European states have taken steps to criminalize trafficking and prosecute traffickers, it is widely recognised that they need to do more to protect the rights of trafficked persons. This is the time to seize the opportunity and establish the highest standards of protection for victims of trafficking."

Mary Cunneen, Director of Anti-Slavery International, said:

"In order to ensure that the protection of victims’ rights is at the heart of the new treaty, it must be strengthened so that it requires states to provide comprehensive protection and support, including support and assistance, and a minimum ‘reflection period’ of at least three months, to enable victims to begin to recover, and to receive help."

In particular, Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International are urging that the December 2004 draft of the new European Convention be strengthened so that it requires states to:

  • guarantee a range of services and assistance, including emergency and necessary medical care, as well as shelter, counselling and physical protection, for all trafficked persons
  • ensure that trafficked persons may remain in the country during a ‘reflection period’ of at least three months, to begin to recover, to escape the influence of traffickers and to make informed decisions about their future in safety and security
  • offer either temporary residence permits (lasting a minimum of 6 months) or permanent residence to trafficked victims who would be in danger if they were returned home
  • prohibit the detention, charge, or prosecution of trafficked persons for illegal entry or residence and activities which are a direct consequence of their situation as trafficked persons
  • establish jurisdiction over persons suspected of trafficking under terms which would ensure, to the largest extent possible, there are no safe havens for those responsible for trafficking
  • establish an effective monitoring system of the implementation of the Convention by a body of independent experts, which is empowered to carry out country visits and to consider collective complaints about the implementation of the Convention by a state.

Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International are also urging the Committee of Ministers to reconvene the group of experts that is drafting the Convention (known as the CAHTEH) before the next session of the Committee of Ministers in March 2005.

This would enable the experts to consider the recommendations contained in the parliamentarians’ Opinion as well as those made by NGOs. This is important not least because of the lack of consultation to date.


The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has mandated a group of government-representatives, called the Ad Hoc Committee on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (known as CAHTEH), to draft a European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings.

The Committee of Ministers have specifically requested the CAHTEH to focus on the human rights of victims of trafficking and design a comprehensive framework for the protection and assistance of trafficked persons and witnesses as well as on prevention, investigation, prosecution and international cooperation.

At its January 2005 plenary session, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will debate and adopt an Opinion on the December 2004 draft European Convention against Trafficking prepared by the CAHTEH.

After consideration of the PACE Opinion, it is likely that the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers will adopt the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in March 2005, and that it will be opened for signature at the Council of Europe’s Third Summit of Heads of State and Government in May 2005.

More than 170 NGOs from 30 countries, including Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International, are calling for the strengthening of the draft European Convention.

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