Government must stop human rights abuses against trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights

The Israeli government is failing to protect the human rights of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls who are trafficked from countries of the former Soviet Union to work in Israel's sex industry, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

'Many trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights become 'commodities', bought and sold by pimps and traffickers for thousands of dollars or held in debt bondage. They are locked up in apartments and have their passports and travel tickets confiscated. Many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are subjected to violence, including rape. Yet most of the people who commit such human rights abuses are never brought to justice by the Israeli government,' the organisation said.

Anna, a 31-year-old physics teacher from the Russian Federation was lured to Israel by the promise of a job in the sex industry earning 20 times her Russian salary. When she arrived, her passport was taken from her and she was locked in an apartment with bars on the windows along with six other Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from former Soviet Union countries. She was auctioned twice, on the second occasion for US$10,000. The Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights were rarely allowed to leave the apartment and never allowed out alone. Much of the money they earned was extorted from them by their pimps.

The worldwide phenomenon of trafficking in human beings has attracted increased attention in recent years from governments and intergovernmental organisations. But governments have ignored the human rights abuses associated with trafficking, instead seeing this as a problem of crime and illegal immigration.

In general, trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who have been subjected to human rights abuses are effectively treated as criminals by the various Israeli governmental agencies with which they come into contact, rather than as victims of such abuses.

Many trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights end up in detention in a police lock-up or Neve Tirza prison following raids on brothels and massage parlours by the police and they are rarely released on bail pending deportation. Others may be detained for longer, sometimes because the Ministry of Justice has issued an order preventing the woman from leaving the country until she has testified in a criminal case.

Israeli officials maintain that it is difficult to bring to justice persons who commit human rights abuses against trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and they blame the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights for not cooperating with the police and the criminal justice system. Various Israeli laws and policies, in particular the strict enforcement of immigration laws against trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, actually make prosecutions more difficult.

Many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are afraid to file complaints with the Israel Police or testify in court because they fear they will be imprisoned, deported or be subjected to further human rights abuses in Israel or abroad. Officials in the Office of the State Attorney told Amnesty International that they cannot offer protection to trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who fear intimidation in Israel or abroad if they testify in criminal trials.

As a result of lobbying by local non-governmental organisations, Israel has taken some steps to combat human rights abuses perpetrated against trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, particularly in the field of legislation. In March 2000 the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) passed the Equality of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights Law, which states that every woman is entitled to protection from violence, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and trafficking in her person. The Ministry of Justice is said to be drafting a provision to criminalise the buying and selling of persons.

However, the Israeli government has yet to take adequate measures to protect trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from human rights abuses, despite a clear obligation to take action under international law. In 1998, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed its regret that 'Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights brought to Israel for the purposes of prostitution ... are not protected as victims of trafficking but are likely to bear the penalties of their illegal presence in Israel by deportation.'

The authorities do not investigate whether a trafficked woman will be at risk of human rights abuses in her country of origin before they deport her, even though they are obliged to do so according to the Refugee Convention which prohibits deportation to a country where an individual is at risk of serious human rights abuses.

Amnesty International is urging the Israeli government to respect its obligations under international law to protect trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from human rights abuses. As a first step the Israeli government should develop a strategy to ensure there is coordinated and effective action by key government agencies, such as the Ministry of the Interior, the Israel Police, the Israel Prisons Service and the Office of the State Attorney, to combat these abuses.

The organisation is also calling for increased international cooperation between Israel and the governments of former Soviet Union countries and transit states to combat human rights abuses committed against trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.

'Both the government and the traffickers are treating these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights as if they do not have human rights. The authorities have a responsibility to take action to protect these trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from enslavement, imprisonment and violence,' Amnesty International said.

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