Since trafficking in human beings continues to evolve, with criminals employing ever more sophisticated and subtle modus operandi, a multi-disciplinary approach to combat trafficking is not only recommended but necessary. In recent years, several reports have emerged alluding to the nexus between terrorism and trafficking in human beings, including within the OSCE region. To better understand the intersection between these two distinct and complex crimes, this paper critically reviews normative and policy frameworks governing action against human trafficking and terrorism. It also examines exploitative activities of terrorist groups through a human trafficking lens, including illustrative examples that contain indications of trafficking elements, whereby it explores how anti-trafficking mechanisms can be leveraged when dealing with terrorism to identify and pro- tect trafficking victims and prosecute perpetrators. Finally, it provides insights into various ways to prevent trafficking of vulnerable adults and children targeted by terrorist groups for various exploitative purposes. The paper offers a structured analysis presented in three chapters and concludes with targeted recommendations.
The first chapter examines the evolution of the normative and policy framework in countering trafficking in human beings and terrorism through an analysis of the principles and key messages contained in these instruments. It starts by examining how the adoption of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized
Crime of 2000, not only defines the crime of trafficking in human beings, but also provides a range of positive and negative obligations to States, such as preventing trafficking through co-operation and criminalizing all acts and forms of trafficking. These obligations also aim at ensuring that victims receive assistance and redress, as well as addressing the special needs of children and preventing their re-victimization by aligning the provisions with the protection enshrined in the Convention on the Right of the Child.
The chapter examines how obligations provided by regional legal instruments and subsequent practices related to traffick- ing further placed the rights and needs of victims at the centre of all actions. The principle of non-punishment is among the tools available to protect the rights of victims of trafficking. This principle ensures that it is the trafficker who is held account- able for crimes committed by victims in the course of being trafficked or as a direct consequence thereof.
The chapter then moves on to an examination of the counter-terrorism framework. While the adoption of the United Nation’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2006 was an important milestone towards a shared international vision on countering terrorism, there is no internationally agreed-upon definition of terrorism, in contrast to the broad international consensus on the definition of human trafficking. The chapter explores how this gap has created challenges in building a common un- derstanding of who victims of terrorism are, despite the recent increase of attention to the issue. This has led to insufficient protection of the human rights of victims implicated in the trafficking–terror nexus.
Elements of trafficking committed by terrorist groups
The second chapter provides an in-depth study of the constituent elements of human trafficking used by terrorist groups, this illustrated by an analysis of over twenty examples involving the exploitation of vulnerable individuals in the context of terrorist group activities. These examples were gathered across the OSCE region and describe various types of forced, deceptive or coerced recruitment, and the transfer and harbouring of vulnerable adults
and children for the purpose of exploitation benefiting terrorist groups. Delving into analyses of acts and means, the paper then examines the nuances of the irrelevance of consent to the intended exploitation of adult victims, if trafficking means such as force, coercion or deceit or the abuse of the position of vulnerability have been used. With regard to children, it highlights that consent is never an element to be considered.
Trafficking in Human Beings and Terrorism: Where and How They Intersect
Information collected and analysed for the purpose of the present study suggests that, in some cases, individuals associ- ated with terrorist activities, including those who have travelled to conflict zones where terrorist groups are based, have done so as a result of force, coercion or deceit in various phases of their engagement with such terrorist groups, or with those acting on behalf of such groups. The examples suggest that terrorist groups target vulnerabilities, whether social, economic and/or personal in nature, and choose individuals according to their perceived utility for the benefit of the terrorist group in question. Many of these persons have been subject to sexual or labour exploitation (or both), or have been forced to perform tasks benefiting a group’s terrorist activities in other ways.
The paper also analyses various settings in which vulnerable individuals have been groomed and lured by terrorist groups for the purpose of exploitation. In this regard, the paper discusses the use of technology by terrorist groups and their as- sociates in the many stages of the crime of human trafficking, including recruitment, movement, control and exploitation of victims. It documents the use of social media by terrorist groups to recruit vulnerable adults, youth and children for forced marriage or labour and sexual exploitation, using, for example, the “lover boy” method to recruit victims in vulnerable situ- ations through chat rooms. Upon their arrival in a conflict zone, young girls or women recruited in this way have found themselves held captive, abused and tortured by their so-called “husbands”. Terrorist groups have also targeted young internet users and lured them into joining their organizations by manipulating their interests and vulnerabilities. As a result, such children have become involved in various illegal activities, including committing crimes in their countries of residence, but also travelling to conflict zones and becoming part of terrorist activities, where they are exploited for various purposes such as labour, sex or combat.
Gender and age dimension of trafficking by terrorism groups
Women and men experience divergent pathways when coming into contact with terrorist groups. The purpose of their recruitment also varies according to gender perceptions and stereotypes. The next chapter of the paper examines how terrorist groups tap into social constructions of masculinity and femininity in given communities,
taking advantage of the diverse vulnerabilities of men and women in different local contexts to attract, recruit and maintain adherents. Terrorism ideology is often linked to human rights abuses specific to men and women. Thus, in a number of contexts victims of exploitative conduct by terrorist groups are affected differently based on gender. This includes sexual enslavement and subjugation of women, and preying on and exploiting male labour migrants.
Exploring the age dimension of trafficking committed by terrorist groups, the study has confirmed that children are ideal prey for the manipulative practices used by terrorist groups. Many children who have become involved in terrorist groups are highly vulnerable. This vulnerability may have arisen from a personal crisis such as the death of a close relative, an un- stable situation at home, lack of good future prospects, or a sense of social exclusion. Some such children are searching for a sense of belonging, which make them vulnerable to someone coming with answers to their quest for identity. The paper shows that some children who have have ended up in conflict zones are there through coercion, grooming, cyber- enticement or deception. While some have crossed international borders unaccompanied by adults, others have travelled with parents who have voluntarily or involuntarily joined terrorist groups. Others were born to women who travelled to join terrorist groups, or were born to women impregnated by fighters by force. Regardless of the conditions that enabled their affiliation with terrorist groups, the paper aligns itself with international child protection organizations and advocates treating these children as victims, recommending that any decisions regarding them should be made in accordance with their best interests.
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