Report of the Secretary-General on trafficking in persons in armed conflict pursuant to Security Council resolution 2331 (2016) [EN/AR]
In its resolution 2331 (2016), the Security Council unanimously condemned all instances of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflicts as a violation of the victims’ human rights, potentially amounting to war crimes, and as acts that undermine the rule of law, finance and drive the recruitment of terrorist groups, exacerbate conflict and undermine development. In the resolution, the Council called upon Member States to ratify legal instruments, investigate, disrupt and dismantle trafficking networks, analyse the links between trafficking and the financing of terrorism, and implement robust mechanisms for the identification of victims so as to provide them with protection and assistance. It also requested several United Nations entities to respond to the matter within their respective mandates and encouraged the building of strong partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
The present report is my first follow-up report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2331 (2016) and on strengthening coordination within the United Nations system to prevent and counter trafficking in persons in armed conflict in all its forms. It is based on information provided by Member States, United Nations entities and relevant international and regional bodies.
II. Recent developments concerning trafficking in persons related to conflict
- The debates at the Security Council on trafficking in persons that took place on 16 December 2015, 20 December 2016 and 15 March 2017, as well as the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of measures to counter trafficking in persons of 10 November 2016 (S/2016/949), helped the international community understand the severity of human trafficking in conflict and post-conflict situations.
Additional elements to increase awareness and shape the response to the involvement of armed and terrorist groups in trafficking in persons were provided in the 2016 reports of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (S/2016/949 and A/71/303). I have also recently reported on instances of conflict-related sexual violence that encompass trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence/exploitation (S/2017/249). However, more needs to be done to address human trafficking in areas affected by conflict, which is facilitated by the weakness or collapse of the rule of law.
The activities of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh),1 and other armed groups engaging in human trafficking continue to raise grave concern. Girls and women continue to be exploited, forced into marriage and offered as a reward to fighters and associates.
As the ISIL stronghold in Iraq and the Syrian Arabic Republic rapidly recedes, it is imperative that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes be brought to justice and held accountable.
The collection of reliable evidence is of paramount importance to end the impunity of traffickers and abusers. In order to support domestic efforts in Iraq to hold ISIL accountable, I am establishing an investigative team to collect, preserve and store evidence of acts of terrorism as well as of trafficking in persons and other acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide (see Security Council resolution 2379 (2017)). I call upon all States to fully support and cooperate with the Investigative Team. I also call upon all States to fully support and cooperate with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, established by the General Assembly in January 2017 (see General Assembly resolution 71/248).
Boko Haram has also continued to attack civilians and exploit women and children, including girls. As result of its activities, the Lake Chad Basin has become an area affected by armed conflict and trafficking in persons. The Multinational Joint Task Force, established by the Lake Chad Basin countries to combat Boko Haram, reported that the group’s operations affected or threatened to affect up to 20 million people and that, owing to territorial gains from January 2016 to March 2017, it has freed at least 20,570 people from the control of Boko Haram (see S/2017/403).
At the same time, threats are becoming more evident in other regions of the world. I am particularly alarmed by reports of acts associated with human trafficking in Libya (see S/2017/726), where migrants are sold as commodities in slave markets. On 8 May 2017, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court briefed the Security Council that her Office was considering opening an investigation into these crimes in Libya (see S/PV.7934). In South-East Asia, I am deeply concerned about the vulnerability of Rohingya refugees to trafficking.
In the last 12 months, several United Nations entities reported on situations associated with the trafficking in persons as set forth in the Protocol to Prevent,
Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. In Colombia, the United Nations documented 79 cases of sexual violence during sporadic operations by armed groups throughout 2016, including forced prostitution, sexual torture, sexual slavery and harassment by armed groups and government forces (see S/2017/249). In its 2017 report, the Panel of Experts on Yemen reported that black-market channels for trafficking in arms, drugs and persons have reopened in that conflict-torn country (see S/2017/81). The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported systematic recruitment and use of children in combat by militias operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (see S/2017/565). Repeated cases of recruitment and use of children in combat have also been reported in the Central African Republic (see A/72/361-S/2017/821). The Office of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict is monitoring and assessing this situation, as these trafficking cases may involve the sale or barter of children, including across borders.
Children are the most vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking in conflict situations. Armed and terrorist groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Central African Republic, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional in Colombia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines and Al-Shabaab in Somalia, continue to recruit boys and girls for combat or support functions (ibid.). ISIL is radicalizing boys and young men to commit terrorist acts, using deception, threats and promises of rewards (see A/72/164). In the Philippines, armed and terrorist groups used a total of 47 children as human shields in two separate incidents (see S/2017/294), while in north-east Nigeria, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that 83 children, including 55 girls, were used to carry out suicide bombings from 1 January to 22 August 2017 alone. 2 10. The risk of child trafficking in situations of armed conflict is a related issue of concern for the mandate of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, who addressed the topic in her most recent annual report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/34/44). Her Office circulated guidance on how to report abduction cases, which would improve data collection and response to human trafficking. Moreover, in the last 12 months I have submitted to the Security Council country-specific reports on the situation of children and armed conflict in Nigeria (S/2017/304), the Philippines (S/2017/294), Somalia (S/2016/1098) and the Sudan (S/2017/191), all of which addressed acts closely linked to human trafficking, such as the abduction of children.
In October 2017, the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child -abuse material, together with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, submitted a joint thematic report to the General Assembly on the vulnerabilities of children to sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation in situations of conflict and humanitarian crisis (A/72/164). In the report, the Special Rapporteurs identified unaccompanied or separated children fleeing or displaced by conflict, or otherwise on the move, as most vulnerable to trafficking, and urged that more be done to help Member States find and support such children.
In the follow-up to the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (General Assembly resolution 71/1), during the preparatory phase of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, a dedicated thematic session on the smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and contemporary forms of slavery was held in September 2017 in Vienna. At that session, Member States emphasized the importance of integrating anti-trafficking responses into the work of humanitarian actors in conflict settings.