Below is a short summary of some of the key issues from Belarus’ report by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. Read the full text. Please note that this is not an official UN summary.
The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, undertook a visit to Belarus from 18 to 24 May 2009 at the invitation of the Government of Belarus. The Special Rapporteur received information that Belarus is a source and transit country for trafficking in persons to a number of countries in various regions of the world, and has recently started to become a destination country. Due to the insidious nature of the phenomenon, the actual scale of trafficking in human beings around the world and, in this context, in Belarus is difficult to measure. Many victims may be improperly identified, others do not come forward at all owing to social taboos linked to having been trafficked and others have simply fallen through the cracks in the system. Most of the Special Rapporteur's interlocutors agreed that trafficking in human beings was widespread and that exploitation of Belarusian men for forced labour was on the increase. Trafficking may also be a cyclical phenomenon: some women who have been victims of trafficking reportedly recruit other women and become traffickers in an attempt to "free" themselves from their captors who have exploited and victimized them.
Belarus is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect Intercountry Adoption, the Convention on the Civil Aspects of Abduction of International Child. Belarus is also a party to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and the Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Convention No. 182). The Special Rapporteur welcomes the political commitment of Belarus at the highest level to addressing trafficking in persons, the adoption of legislative and policy measures and efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. Furthermore, she notes the efforts of Belarus at the international level, especially within the United Nations, in promoting a global plan of action for combating human trafficking. Nevertheless, the root causes of trafficking need to be tackled more vigorously. Stronger efforts must also be placed on ensuring a holistic, reintegrative and rehabilitative system of assistance to victims of trafficking, with full recognition of their human rights. Such a system must integrate civil society organizations as true partners, with a view to ensuring more complete protection of victims. Lastly, the Special Rapporteur recalls that any efforts to combat trafficking must be anchored in human rights, and a children's rights and gender perspective must be underscored.
In the light of the above, the Special Rapporteur recommended the following to the Government of Belarus. Regarding legislation, the Government should ensure: (a) The adoption and implementation, as a matter of urgency, of a law on domestic violence, ensuring that the law is gender-specific and addresses the root causes of domestic violence, prevention, assistance to victims and prosecution of the offence; (b) The setting up of a legal aid fund; (c) The adoption and implementation of the draft law enabling the State to provide funding to civil society organizations on the basis of a call for tender; (d) The ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; (e) Continuation of its effort to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. In addition, the Government should establish a national special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, under the aegis of the Presidential Administration, and the Government should strengthen employment opportunities at home. The gender dimension must be taken into account in any such efforts.
The Special Rapporteur also recommended that the Government increase its efforts to address the root causes of trafficking in human beings, including gender inequality and the demand for labour that is exploitative or services which breach the human rights of the person delivering those services. The Government should ensure that anti-trafficking measures do not operate to violate human rights, and adopt clear guidelines and procedures for relevant State authorities and officials (police officers, border guards and immigration officials) to permit the rapid and accurate identification of trafficked persons, as indicated in both the Palermo Protocol and the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking. Specific guidelines should also be adopted for identification and protection of child victims of trafficking in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Training provided to relevant Government officials on identification, assistance to and protection of victims of trafficking should be enhanced in quality and quantity in collaboration with organizations. Furthermore, the Government should promote and institute a multisectoral approach to the identification and treatment of victims of trafficking other stakeholders including NGOs and civil society, and assistance and prevention programmes should be strengthened, in particular by targeting specific vulnerable groups.
The Special Rapporteur further opined that the Government should take measures to ensure that special rooms for confidential interview of victims of trafficking during the course of a trial are available in all courts across the country. It should continue strengthening its cooperation with international and civil society organizations, ensuring that such cooperation is intersectoral, integrated and coordinated and that the responsibilities of each partner are clear. The Government should adopt and implement the Government directive providing for the possibility of granting tax exemptions or tax breaks to NGOs and a speedy authorization process for the use of grants received by NGOs to implement actions to combat trafficking. It should also keep the Special Rapporteur informed of all developments regarding the establishment of a legal aid fund. The Government should establish a compensation fund for victims of trafficking, which can, inter alia, be composed of State funds and proceeds from the crimes of trafficking in persons.