Tuesday, November 26, 2002

U.N. Sees Growing Sex Trafficking

NGO Blames UNMIBH, Others

BOSNIA — Senior U.N. officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina are warning of an increase in trafficked Eastern European women and girls passing through the Balkans before being forced into prostitution in Western Europe, BBC Online reports. The U.N. Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina is to hand over responsibility for the problem to the European Union at the end of the year.

UNMIBH anti-trafficking head Celhia de Laverene said the EU is not taking the issue seriously enough and lacks the political will to do so. De Laverene said the EU plans to have just 500 police officers in the country — 1,000 fewer than the U.N. mission — and to close down the only unit designated to deal directly with the problem. She said the moves could lead to substantially more women becoming victims of trafficking.

The EU mission has said sufficient resources will be provided for the task, but European ministers acknowledged at a meeting in London this week that criminal gangs in the Balkans are better-organized than the authorities trying to stop them (Nick Hawton, BBC Online, Nov. 26).

Urging the EU to make anti-trafficking efforts a priority in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Human Rights Watch today released a report blaming local corruption and the complicity of international officials for the burgeoning trade.

The 75-page report indicates local officials often fail to investigate and arrest traffickers while blaming victims for reluctance to testify and that Bosnian police facilitate the trade by providing false documents, visiting brothels and, at times, engaging in the trade directly. Citing UNMIBH documents, Human Rights Watch said officials from the U.N. mission's International Police Task Force have visited nightclubs as clients, arranged to have trafficked women and girls delivered to their residences and, in one case, tampered with witnesses to conceal an officer's complicity. UNMIBH said in April that 18 international police officers had been repatriated for sexual misconduct since the mission began, but Human Rights Watch said "repatriation is not an adequate consequence for these acts."

"Individual international police officers have purchased human beings and received slaps on the wrist," said LaShawn Jefferson, Human Rights Watch's women's rights chief.

"Local and international police should be protecting these women, not participating in the abuses against them," Jefferson added. "Trafficked women and girls face betrayal on all sides — by the agents who recruit them, by police duty-bound to protect them and by individuals in the international community sworn to uphold the rule of law" (Human Rights Watch release, Nov. 25).

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Created: November 29, 2002
Last modified: November 29, 2002
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