Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Prosecuting Human Trafficking in U.S. Courts

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today introduced legislation -- S. 1703, the Trafficking in Persons Accountability Act -- to allow prosecution of non-U.S. citizens for human trafficking committed outside the United States. Under current law, federal prosecutors can only prosecute trafficking that is committed within the United States or by a U.S. citizen abroad. According to Durbin, "[w]e cannot allow our contry to continue providing safe haven for those trafficking in human misery." Citing the recently released U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2007 (TIP Report), Durbin noted that the "number of countries who are not doing enough to combat trafficking has increased. If these countries won't prosecute those who engage in human trafficking, the United States should be empowered to bring justice to those traffickers who are in the United States."
The annual State Department TIP Report ranks countries based on their efforts to comply with a set of U.S. minimum standards on trafficking (established in the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000). Countries that are not making significant efforts to comply are ranked Tier 3, and may be subject to U.S. sanctions (few ultimately are). This year, there are 48 countries on Tier 3; last year, there were 44, and the year before there were 41. The U.S. minimum standards focus on the prosecution prong of the U.S.'s "3P's" policy on trafficking (prosecution of traffickers, protection of trafficked persons, and prevention of trafficking). But it's not entirely clear how far an emphasis on prosecution -- at least to the relative neglect of the other 2P's -- gets us...

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