Successful First ‘Anti-Trafficking’ Lawyers Network Meeting Organized by the Council of Europe and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee
On November 22nd and 23rd, 2016, the Council of Europe, in cooperation with the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, organised a meeting of lawyers and NGOs providing legal assistance to victims of trafficking in human beings in Strasbourg, France. The aims of the meeting were to bring together experienced lawyers representing trafficking victims in order to establish a network of such lawyers, and to ensure that all trafficked persons have access to legal assistance and representation from their first contact with the authorities as an integral part of national assistance systems.
The meeting brought together 47 lawyers and representatives of NGOs from 26 countries. The topics included current challenges in the protection of the rights of trafficked persons, the role of lawyers in preventing secondary victimisation and protecting victims’ rights, such as the right to compensation, the application of the non-punishment principle, the need for strategic litigation, and national models of legal aid to trafficked persons. In working groups, participants actively shared experiences and discussed barriers trafficked persons face in accessing justice. The participants also discussed what action would be needed to improve access to legal aid for trafficked persons, as well as the possible needs and benefits of a European Network of victim lawyers for trafficked persons. The overarching theme was the recognition of access to legal assistance and representation as a key element of access to justice. The conference concluded with a discussion about the next steps and recommendations for future action.