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BALKANS ACT (Against Crime of Trafficking) NOW!

Project facts

  • Funder: European Commission (Partnership Programmes for Civil Society Organizations)
  • Partners: ASTRA Anti trafficking action (Serbia), Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Association Accompagnement, Lieux d’Accueil (France), Carrefour éducatif et social (France), Comité Contre l’Esclavage Moderne (France), Open Gate (Macedonia), La Strada Macedonia, International Forum of Solidarity – EMMAUS (Bosnia), Partnership for Social Development (Croatia)
  • Project period: 1 Dec 2012 – 30 November 2014
  • Budget: € 625.000
  • Project Manager: Ms Julia Koster

The project is designed to address the problem of trafficking in human beings with emphasis on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) capacity building and monitoring the rights of the victims especially in judicial procedures. This entails building stronger ties between civil society, trade unions and other relevant stakeholders in Serbia and the Balkans’ region, alongside aligning the region’s best practices with those of the EU.

The project supports NGOs in capacity building, to learn from each other and to strengthen their cooperation across the region. Cooperation is especially important in the case of trafficking, as trafficking is not a national problem but goes across borders. Its therefore necessary to cooperate across borders, both on governmental and non-governmental level. Cooperation between state institutions and NGOs is key as they play a crucial role in addressing trafficking and they need each other to find adequate solutions.

Although the law tends to be in place in all countries, the problem lies in its implementation. In other words: the countries do not need new laws, the existing laws need to be applied. Particular problems are the identification of victims, the  protection of their right to privacy and safety and their respectful treatment in criminal proceedings, non-punishment of victims for offences they committed as a result of their being trafficked (e.g. begging, petty crimes and prostitution), non-detention of trafficking victims (also in not closed shelters) and the issue of compensation of victims for the money they earned for their traffickers and the damage they suffered. Other issues are the protection of the personal data of victims and the role of corruption in relation to trafficking.

Special attention is needed for the protection of the rights of victims and the alignment with EU norms and standards in this area. This is in the interest of victims but also follows from the recognition of trafficking and the slavery-like exploitation of human beings as a serious human rights violation. Furthermore, States are obligated under international law to provide victims of human rights violations adequate assistance and protection, including compensation. However, it is also in the interest of the prosecution, as the willingness of victims to testify is crucial for the effective investigation and prosecution of traffickers. This willingness is highly dependent on their treatment by the criminal justice system and respect for their rights.

One of the ways the project addresses the above mentioned problems is the establishment of a transparent and accountable human anti-trafficking CSO network capable of providing a voice to citizens. This network will conduct independent analysis and objective monitoring, report on findings, advocate for policy developments and influence public decision-making processes. This brings Bosnian, Macedonian, Croatian and Serbian justice sector policies and operations closer to EU standards and values with the support of Dutch and French expertise.

The Western Balkan CSOs will be empowered to conduct objectively verifiable and reliable monitoring of justice sector work via the development of a specific, tailor-made, policy and practice monitoring tool. Monitoring will cover the work of all three branches of government.

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) as a partner in this project will carry out the following activities:

  • Coordinating a detailed analytical situation report per targeted country of the functioning of national justice sectors, the legislative framework, court and prosecution practices, victims and perpetrator profiles and other related issues.
  • Writing a regional document together with the French partners in which regional lessons and best practices will be identified that are both transferrable between countries and aligned with EU standards.
  • Providing support in various activities throughout the project such as advocacy and policy building campaigns, trainings in the field of advocacy and monitoring and developing a monitoring tool to be used by all local partners in their future anti-trafficking work.

In the first year of the project all project partners will sign a Declaration to underline countries’ international obligations, EU values and approaches and strongly propose regional co-operation as well as mutual learning by identification of top priority intervention areas. The aim of the Declaration is to further develop national, regional and international co-operation, promote concrete measures and standards, best practices and mechanisms in tackling human trafficking. The Declaration is expected to be signed by over 20 anti-trafficking organisations in South-East Europe.

Recently, our partner organisation ASTRA released a legal analysis report on the current developments in the Balkans, the report can be found here.