European law enforcement bodies and members of the judiciary must uphold the principle of non-punishment for victims of human trafficking who have committed crimes as a consequence of their trafficked situation, says a report by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Crimes typically related to trafficking, such as the use of false documents, work in cannabis factories, or pickpocketing are often committed under coercion by victims of trafficking for the profit of traffickers, argues the report, and their perpetrators should not be detained, prosecuted or punished.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combatting Trafficking, delineates 29 recommendations on how to handle instances where there are indications that crimes have been committed because of exploitation. The principle of non-punishment will allow victims to testify in court without fear of reprisal, improving the chances of prosecuting the traffickers themselves, argues Giammarinaro. The report highlights that it is often traffickers’ deliberate strategy to expose their victims to criminality, in order maintain control and prevent them from seeking help from law enforcement officials.

The report recommends that specific provisions be introduced into national legislation to ensure the protection of victims of trafficking. It also highlights that, as per the judgment in the case Adimi R v. Uxbridge Magistrate’s Court, immigration related offences or detention must not hinder victims’ ability to make an asylum application or be used to exclude them from refugee status.

Giammarinaro presented the report at the 22nd session of the UNODC’s Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at the end of April.



This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 May 2013
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