Despite the high number of ratifications of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (169 States Parties as per July 2016) and the numerous national laws to criminalise human trafficking adopted by States, the number of convictions for human trafficking offences remains low – as does the provision of effective remedies for victims of human trafficking.
The obligation to provide remedies to victims of human rights violations is enshrined in several human rights instruments. With regard to victims of trafficking in persons, a solid international legal framework has developed over the last decade, providing the basis for a common approach to remedies for victims of trafficking in persons, and some sense of minimum standards.
Yet fundamental flaws in practice continue to exist - not least tangible confusion regarding the precise scope and form of remedies that should be available to victims of human trafficking as a distinct group with distinct needs for protection and assistance. The different perspectives informing the debate have thus far been unable to provide comprehensive guidelines to states or other actors on what they are required to do and, additionally, should, on principle, do. Also problematic are the numerous obstacles that practically prevent victims from seeking remedy, including (but not limited to) gender-based discrimination, lack of knowledge of rights, lack of psychological support, and prosecution of victims for status-related offences.
This ICAT issue paper argues that access to remedies for trafficking victims should be a core component of efforts to address human trafficking, and provides illustrative examples of effective remedies and limitations that currently exist in different jurisdictions. Effective access to remedies is important not only for victims' recovery but also for reaffirming their rights and preventing re-victimisation. The paper also looks at the right to effective remedies for victims of human trafficking under international law, the scope of applying effective remedies, the challenges to providing remedies to victims at the national level, and offers practical recommendations to improve access to remedies (including specific recommendations for law and policy-makers, as well as non-State actors) and to facilitate related international cooperation.
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