Lawyers network meeting: improving access to justice for trafficked persons
The Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings are organizing a meeting for lawyers and NGOs about the provision of legal assistance for human trafficking victims on 22 and 23 November 2016 in Strasbourg, France.
The aim of the meeting is to bring together experienced lawyers who represent victims of human trafficking. The lawyers are stimulated to forge a network. The network promotes the idea that legal aid is an essential element of access to justice for human trafficking victims and should be part of a national assistance system.
Access to specialized legal aid is key to ensuring the protection of the rights and interests of trafficked persons during criminal trials and other legal proceedings. In addition, it prevents secondary victimization.
The Netherlands Helsinki Committee is grateful that the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) took the initiative for this meeting. NHC feels that GRETA can play a vital role in shaping the political agenda on access to legal aid.
Access to legal aid is especially important in countries where an adequate legal system is failing or not functioning properly. Consequently, not all trafficked persons have access to a qualified lawyer from the moment they first get in contact with the authorities.
The conference builds on the legal aid projects that the NHC carried out together with NGO partners in Serbia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania in the past years to train lawyers and improve access of trafficked persons to specialized legal aid and representation. GRETA decided to support the idea and took the initiative to organize a first conference. The NHC hopes that this meeting will be the first of more activities and meetings for lawyers and relevant stakeholders in Europe.