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International Collaborative Efforts to Promote the Non-Punishment Principle

 

The Council of Europe and the Organisation for Social Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), held a joint conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, entitled ”Not For Sale- Joining Forces against Trafficking in Human Beings’’, 17 – 18 February 2014.
The Conference identified that promoting the Non-Punishment Principle is one of the important areas to facilitate enhanced co-operation between both the Council of Europe and the OSCE. The Non-Punishment Principle holds that victims of human trafficking should not be punished for unlawful activities they were forced to commit by their exploiters.
Eight months later in October, the Council of Europe and the OSCE launched a joint two-day workshop in Strasbourg, France, which brought together judges and prosecutors to discuss the key challenges in supporting the legal rights of human trafficking victims. A fundamental premise was the implementation of the Non-Punishment Principle by all law enforcement agencies, from the police officer right through to the highest court in the land.
‘’Upholding the Non-Punishment Principle is a key step to increasing the number of successful prosecutions in the OSCE region as it encourages victims of trafficking to testify in court by ensuring that they will not also be imprisoned or deported’’, stated Ambassador Madina Jarbussynova, OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.
Despite the agreement earlier in the year on promoting the Non-Punishment Principle, legal experts, judges, lawyers, prosecutors and even a judge from the European Court for Human Rights, heard that it was not universally implemented throughout the region. Petya Nesterova, Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, said that ‘’Despite the existence of binding, legal provisions, victims of trafficking are still imprisoned or deported. This contravenes the State’s obligation to protect and assist victims and contributes to the impunity of traffickers.’’
Building upon the need to standardise best practice when attending to human trafficking cases, before Christmas the OSCE provided a training seminar for judges from regional courts, in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.
Thus a review of the past year indicates a concerted effort from all parties, funded and supported by the OSCE, the United States embassy in Kazakhstan, the Civil Service Academy and the Supreme Court, to ensure extensive training in the implementation of the Non-Punishment Principle, with the explicit hope that victims of human trafficking will find the courage to break free, confident that they will not be punished.
Training of judges continues during 2015, with a focus on best legislative and judicial practices to combat human trafficking. National and international experts play their part in the training, to improve understandings and enhance co-operation between law enforcement, judicial authorities and civil society.
It is encouraging to see formal attention to training measures which will improve professional skills in both judicial and administrative areas which will go a long way towards heling combat human trafficking.
It is early days yet, but clearly significant plans are being made for the future and the implementation of best practice in order to break the chains that bind victims of human trafficking.
 
Anne Kelleher
RENATE Communications Person