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Promotion of the Right of Trafficked Persons: Reports from Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia

12 June 2014

The NHC is proud to present three individual country reports on the current situation in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia with regard to the legal position of trafficked persons. These reports have been written as part of the three-year project “Promotion of the Rights of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia with Emphasis on Legal Support – A Human Rights-Based Approach”. They provide legal analyses of the position of trafficked persons in criminal and other relevant proceedings and their treatment by the judicial system. Particular attention is given to trafficked persons’ access to legal aid and the protection of their rights as victims and witnesses, as well as access to possible compensation.

The reports look at the legal provisions pertaining to the position of both victims and witnesses of trafficking, as well as at the practical implementation of these provisions based on the experiences of the partner NGOs and information from interviews with victims. Another point of attention is how human trafficking is defined within the different countries and whether the interpretation of this definition leads to equal protection without discrimination to all possible victims, including sex workers and victims of trafficking and exploitation for other purposes than prostitution.

The reports will feed into national trainings of social workers and lawyers and act as a basis for lobby and advocacy by the partner NGOs. The outcomes of the national researches will also be discussed in Round Table sessions with the relevant stakeholders, including law enforcement, judges and prosecutors.

Next to the training of social workers and lawyers, a model will be developed to systematically monitor court cases with respect to the treatment of the victim/witnesses concerned and the protection of their rights and interests. The monitoring will be carried out by law students who will be specifically trained for this purpose. The outcomes will provide the relevant stakeholders with concrete recommendations on how to improve the treatment of trafficking victims in light of the relevant European and international standards.

You can find all three reports as well as more information on the project below:

Bulgaria Report

Romania Report

Slovakia Report


Promotion of the Rights of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia

One of the problems countries such as Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia have to deal with is the victims’ lack of access to legal counseling and aid. An adequate referral system which ensures that victims are informed about the relevant judicial proceedings and their rights from their very first contact with the authorities is missing. Moreover, there are very few lawyers trained in working with trafficked persons, state-funded legal aid is scarce and often limited to no more than the formal presence of a lawyer during the trial. Even if formally victims have a right to claim compensation for the damages they suffered, such claims are rarely awarded and, if they are, hardly ever executed.

Provisions, such as the use of closed hearings or audiovisual means, that might protect the safety and privacy of victims are not effectively used. Many actors in the judicial system, including police, prosecutors, judges and lawyers, lack knowledge about trafficking and its psychological, social and health impacts on its victims. And in some cases victims are treated disrespectfully by representatives of the judicial system itself. As a result trafficked persons face major barriers in accessing justice and criminal proceedings often lead to further victimization. At the same time, NGOs are not trained in providing legal counseling and have limited funds to pay for legal aid and representation.

Despite increasing awareness that trafficking and the exploitation of human beings constitute severe human rights violations, states tend to focus on the prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators, while the protection of the rights of trafficked persons lags behind. Often victims are purely seen as instrumental for the prosecution with little regard for the far reaching impact testifying against their exploiters may have on their current and future wellbeing, safety and life.