Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia

by ASTRA - Anti trafficking action (ASTRA - Akcija protiv trgovine ljudima)
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia
Support victims of human trafficking in Serbia

Project Report | Sep 26, 2023
Disturbing Results of the Judicial Practice 2022

By Hristina Piskulidis | Communication Officer

On July 30, the International Day Against Human Trafficking, NGO ASTRA published the following press release. At the same time, the announcement is an appeal to employees of the judiciary and other institutions who come into contact with persons who have survived human trafficking, to apply an approach oriented towards the rights of victims and existing legal solutions – aiming to protect the rights of a from the most vulnerable groups in our society, former victims of human trafficking.

For the past 12 years, ASTRA has been analyzing court verdicts for the criminal offense of human trafficking and related crimes, such as mediation in prostitution and child trafficking for adoption. The main goal of the analysis is an objective assessment of the degree of achievement and respect for the protection and rights of victims in court proceedings, but also the improvement of the overall systemic response in the fight against human trafficking and support for victims of human trafficking. To our great regret, after more than a decade of analysis, we have no choice but to state that some of the most frequent failures in the work of the courts and the achievement of justice for victims of human trafficking have, through constant repetition, turned into chronic/rooted "pains."

To clarify what this is about and how the analysis of dry legal facts can lead to astonishment, deepened distrust in the system, and even fear for loved ones and the environment, we will present some of the MAIN OBSERVATIONS about established harmful court practices in this area.

  • The fines are in the legal minimum. Most sentences for the crime of human trafficking are 3 to 5 years. Imprisonment sentences of more than 5 years are decreasing (38% in 2018, 25% in 2019, 17% in 2020, 11% in 2021 and 20% in 2022). In 2022, sentences in the amount of 3-5 years were not pronounced, and in 80% of cases, the sentence was pronounced for less than 3 years!
  • Criminal acts are initially more often classified as mediation in the practice of prostitution from Article 184 of the Criminal Code and less often as the criminal offense of human trafficking from Article 388 of the CC (the percentage of defendants for the offense from Article 184 of the CC - was 13% in 2018, 59% in 2019, 64% in 2020, 70% in 2021 and 69% in 2022; the percentage of defendants for the offense from Article 388 CC amounted to 80% in 2018, 29% in 2019, 27% in 2020, 30% in 2021 and 31% in 2022). This automatically means lower sentences for an increasing number of offenders.
  • An increase in the share of sexual exploitation in human trafficking is present for years (60% in 2018, 82% in 2019, 100% in 2020, 92% in 2021, and 100% in 2022, with the fact that in 2022 in 25% of cases it is a combination of sexual and associated labor exploitation). Here, another question justifiably arises - what about other forms of human trafficking, and especially what about labor exploitation, which is a global trend and a form of trade that occurs more and more often in both the official and the gray economy, and it refers to women, men, and children.
  • Most of the victims are women and girls (2018−86%, 2019−97%, 2020−100%, 2021−100%, 2022 −100%).
  • Verdicts made by accepting a plea deal prevail (40% in 2018, 50% in 2019, 59% in 2020 and 2021 and 56% in 2022). Judgments passed in this way, as well as the classification of the act as mediation in prostitution, lead to the fact that potential victims do not receive the status of injured persons, which makes them "invisible participants" because they are denied the right to participate in the proceedings and cannot participate in any way to influence the course and content of the agreement, including the exercise of their rights.
  • The status of a particularly sensitive witness is still very rarely granted, even when the injured parties are/are not children - only 1 injured person received the status of a particularly sensitive witness in 2022 in court proceedings related to k.d. human trafficking, while in other cases there is no data.
  • 50% of victims in cases of human trafficking in 2022 are children, that is, girls.

These are just some of the observations about judicial practice in the last few years, ending in 2022. There are no significant advances forward, despite numerous gatherings of experts, education, analyses and reports... Recommendations for improving judicial practice are almost repeated year after year. On the other hand, rare conscientious individuals proposed legal changes, and some judgments inspire hope that things can improve.

However, while the victims are waiting for the "better," we are left with open questions: What message are we sending as a society if we prescribe minimum sentences for one of the most severe crimes, the perpetrators of which are ready to completely devastate one or more people for the sake of profit? If institutions ignore calls to do their job in cases of mass human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation? If we don't grant the status of especially sensitive witness, and 50% of the victims are our children? If we complicate the process of awarding compensation to victims? if we trust the perpetrator more than the victim?

And finally, what does all this say about us, society, and the state?

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Project Leader:
Danijela Nikolic
Belgrade , Serbia
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