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Office of the High Commissioner in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Protection for the rights of persons trafficked into Bosnia for the purpose of forced prostitution

Trafficking in persons, particularly for the purpose of forced prostitution, is not a new phenomenon in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The problem was recognized as early as 1993 and since then the numbers involved, the extent of control exercised by organized crime, and the market itself have increased considerably. The situation has also been exacerbated by the poor state of the economy. Over 40% of the population are unemployed, including a disproportionate number of women. As a result, there is increasing evidence of the trafficking of women out of Bosnia to third countries, and also within the country itself, particularly between the two Entities.

To date there has been no real attempt by either the local police or the government to confront the problem. Nor has the international community taken action. OHCHR has therefore taken the lead in coordinating those various agencies with appropriate mandates to recognize the need to address trafficking. The priority in phase one was to ensure the security and protection of the rights of individuals in need of assistance. The objective of Phase two, which overlaps chronologically with Phase one, is to transfer responsibility to the state with the support of the NGO community.

The programme has already resulted in changes in the choices available to trafficked persons. There have been policy changes in the approach of the international community and work is ongoing with the government and the local police to reach a greater understanding of the nature of the problem, and the need to respect human rights.

The involvement of other UN agencies has been a vital component. The UNMIBH, IOM and, to a lesser extent, both UNHCR and UNICEF have been working closely with OHCHR to develop the strategy now in place. The approach can be replicated in other areas where trafficking is a problem.

The second phase of the programme, already under way, involves collaboration with NGO's to build capacity for working with trafficked persons, in areas such as running shelters and providing health care, counselling, legal advice and representation. Meanwhile, discussions are also under way with the responsible ministries on the issues of legal reform, the provision of places of safety, mechanisms for safe repatriation when requested and support for the work of the NGOs.

This initiative is the first to develop such extensive interagency cooperation - due, in part, to the Dayton peace agreement and the mandates it created.

The strategy involved included:

· meeting with relevant bodies to establish the extent of the problem

· setting up a trafficking group of relevant international agencies to coordinate assistance and information campaigns

· training in best practice for dealing with the issue

· issuing guidelines for the International Police Force on how to work with victims of trafficking from a human rights perspective

· using the media to disseminate information for the public

· training for prosecutors by OHCHR, Council of Europe and international NGOs

· conducting a dialogue with the government about its responsibility.

A key element in the success of this initiative has been the use of a human rights perspective as the basis for the strategy. Others include the commitment of international organizations to the issue and the very strong mandates of UNMIBH and the OHR under the Dayton Peace Agreement.

Although the US Government gave financial support to IOM, the project overall has been insufficiently funded and is dependent on financial contributions from individuals. This will affect the long-term sustainability of the initiative.

To date, the project has:

· helped over 40 women in their attempts to leave the places where they were held against their will and to return home. Most received legal advice and health care.

· collated evidence on the extent of trafficking, the routes taken and the criminal networks involved.

· raised general awareness of the issues involved in trafficking through the use of media, training for NGOs, government officials and the judiciary.

· helped prevent the prosecution of women for prostitution where there is evidence of trafficking.

· established a moratorium on all deportations pending legislative reform.

Madeleine Rees