Participation of non-governmental stakeholders in Constructive Dialogues for the UNTOC Review Mechanism

On July 1st 2022, Chairman of the Legal Analaysis and Research Public Union Ramil Iskandarli had a speech online on “The role of the NGOs in assiting insvestigations on human trafficking” at the hybrid event of Constructive Dialogue for the Review Mechanism of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocol on Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons.

The first Constructive Dialogues for the Review Mechanism of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocols thereto took place in Vienna this year, focusing on the topics of Firearms, International Cooperation and Technical Assistance, as well as Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons.

The Procedures and rules for the functioning of the Mechanism for the Review of the Implementation of UNTOC and the Protocols thereto, which the Conference of the Parties to UNTOC adopted through Resolution 9/1, set out in paragraph 53 that constructive dialogues with relevant stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, should be convened as a regular practice following the conclusion of the sessions of the working groups and the adoption of the reports. Other relevant stakeholders, including representatives of the private sector and academia, were also participated.

Ramil Iskandarli participated at the panel disscussion on how civil society contributes to investigations and specialized prosecutions or otherwise supports law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking in persons cases. Here is the text of the short intervention during the discussions:

“Distinguished delegates,

I represent the Legal Analysis and Research Public Union which is based in Azerbaijan and implementing policy researches and support to legal reforms. Our organization is a member of the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Along with the legal reforms in access to justice and civil society sector, we also deal with the issues of the human trafficking problem. Our organization cooperates with the State Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Problems of Azerbaijan, Specialized Anti-Trafficking Department of the Ministry of Interior and the Center for support of Victims of Human Trafficking of the Social Services Agency on tackling trafficking in persons.

The role of NGOs in countering trafficking

The essential role civil society, including non-governmental organizations, play in countering trafficking in persons is recognized in the main legal instruments against trafficking, namely the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (Protocol against Trafficking in Persons) and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (Council of Europe Convention). These instruments contain a number of provisions requiring States to cooperate with civil society.

The main focus of the NGOs can be prevention and protection, as well as the policy and advocacy.

NGO’s role in investigations

NGOs can be able to contribute effectively contribute to investigations conducting by law enforcement. NGOs can play an essential role in smart raids. They often help law enforcement officers carry out rescues and provide comfort and shelter to victims. They can offer legal assistance, social services and psychosocial counseling to the victims of trafficking.

However, NGOs cannot be expected to take the place of government in the commission of a raid or rescue, as they lack authority to perform law enforcement actions.

Identifying trafficked individuals

Identifying trafficked individuals is a task most often borne by law enforcement agencies though it may be done by different actors, ranging from the citizenry to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations. Victims rarely self-identify, which exacerbates the challenge of establishing that a crime has occurred. As such, it is pivotal for law enforcement to proactively seek out victims.

Evaluating risks

On the occasions when victims have decided that they would like to return to their countries of origin, criminal justice practitioners are required to evaluate risks outside their jurisdictions. The ability for law enforcement officers to perform this task in a foreign country comes with several challenges especially because they may not have the authority to complete all the relevant tasks necessary to conduct a comprehensive assessment.

Unfamiliarity with the culture

Other challenges may include unfamiliarity with the culture, including the culture of the community the victim may want to return to, unfamiliarity with the language, as well as the inability to accurately assess the availability and quality of services available in the country of origin. These assessments be done in coordination with relevant stakeholders in the country of origin, such as law enforcement agencies, national counter-trafficking committees, NGOs and/or international organizations. Thank you for your attention”.