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Crime Victim Rights

Sex trafficking laws must either reference existing crime victim rights provisions in other national or local laws or establish an independent provision defining the rights of a trafficking victim. At a minimum, those rights should include those enumerated in the “Bill of Rights for Victims of Trafficking”:

  • The right to safety
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to information
  • The right to legal representation
  • The right to be heard in court
  • The right to compensation for damages
  • The right to medical assistance
  • The right to social assistance
  • The right to seek residence
  • The right to return

(See: The Protection Project of Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS))

Module 11 of the UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners provides practical suggestions for how practitioners can support victim rights and needs. Facilitating victims’ recovery also enables them to participate more effectively in the criminal justice process. (See:  Guidelines for the use of interpreters are available in Module 10 of the UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, Module 11, 2009.

Crime victim rights are explicitly recognized and crime victims are defined in the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.  In 2002, the expert group convened by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to discuss the trafficking of women and girls, noted that:

The UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, a person may be considered a victim, regardless of whether the perpetrator is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted and regardless of the familial relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. This definition implies that the protection of the rights of the trafficked person should be ensured because she/he is a victim, not only when she/he acts as a witness or when the testimony leads to the arrest and conviction of the offenders.

(See: Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse, United Nations General Assembly Resolution, 29 November 1985)

Drafters must review all relevant legislation and add victim of trafficking to any classification or definition of “crime victim” to ensure victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation receive all of the available services and benefits.

A provision regarding the right to be heard in court should include the “opportunity to present his or her views, needs, interests and concerns for consideration at appropriate states of any judicial or administrative proceedings related to the offence, either directly or through his or her representative, without prejudice to the rights of the defence.”  (See:  UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art. 24)

A provision regarding the right to privacy should include mandates for processing, storage and use of information about trafficking victims; the exchange of such information related to criminal investigations of suspected traffickers; the confidentiality of information shared between a victim and a professional; the gathering of such information from trafficking victims away from the public and media; the complete confidentiality of medical information gathered for the criminal case; and the non-disclosure of a trafficking victim’s name, address or other identifying information, including photographs. (See: UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art.25)

A provision regarding the right to compensation for damages should include both restitution and compensation. Trafficking victims should be entitled to such compensation regardless of immigration status. If a government official committed the offence under actual or apparent State authority, the court may order the State to pay compensation to the victim. Restitution should include the “return of property or payment for the harm or loss suffered, reimbursement of expenses incurred as a result of the victimization, the provision of services and the restoration of rights.” (See: UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art. 28

Compensation should be given priority over a fine. The goal of compensation must be reparation and should include the costs of medical, physical, psychological or psychiatric treatment; costs of physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation; costs of necessary transportation, temporary childcare, temporary housing or movement of the victim to a place of temporary safe residence; lost income and due wages; legal fees and other costs or expenses incurred related to participation in the criminal investigation and prosecution process; payment for non-material damages; and any other costs or losses incurred as a result of being trafficked and reasonably assessed by the court. If a government official committed the offence under actual or apparent State authority, the court may order the State to pay compensation to the victim. (See: UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art. 28

Illustrative Example :

Romania enacted both an anti-trafficking law and a crime victim rights law.  Together these laws provide for many of the rights identified in the “Bill of Rights for Victims of Trafficking.” (See: On Certain Measures to Ensure the Protection of Victims of Crime , 2004; LAW 678/2001 On Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings amended and supplemented by GEO no. 143/2002, Law 39/2003, GEO no. 79/2005)