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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: January 2011

7 - Obligations of an Effective Criminal Justice Response


The existence of a general culture of impunity for those involved in the exploitation of trafficking victims is beyond dispute. Traffickers and their accomplices are seldom arrested, investigated, prosecuted, or convicted. As noted elsewhere in this book, victims of trafficking are rarely identified and too often criminalized. Despite being the key to successful prosecutions, victims are rarely brought into the criminal justice process as witnesses. Criminal justice responses to trafficking have been subject to severe criticism, with many commentators viewing such an approach as unsuitable to the nature of the trafficking phenomenon and inevitably damaging to the rights of victims. The present chapter takes a different position: A criminal justice response to trafficking that prioritizes rights and seeks both to end impunity for traffickers and to secure justice for victims is in full conformity with international law and deserves to take its rightful place as a critical component of any lasting solution to trafficking.

The international community has acknowledged the need for an effective criminal justice response to trafficking and, through legal and policy developments detailed in this chapter, confirmed a number of important “markers” or indicators of such a response. It is widely agreed, for example, that trafficking, as defined in international law, should be criminalized; that traffickers should be investigated, prosecuted, and appropriately punished; that proceeds of trafficking crimes should be confiscated; and, in cases of trafficking across national borders, that international legal and operational collaboration should aim to ensure that there are no safe havens for traffickers.

Gallagher, A.T., “Human Rights and Human Trafficking: Quagmire or Firm Ground? A Response to James Hathaway,” (2009) 49(4) Virginia Journal of International Law789, at 812–814