Posts tagged with: International criminal law

Raphael Lemkin

Raphael Lemkin

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide – a systematic, murderous campaign carried out by the Ottoman Empire against its Armenian population, killing 1.5 million and leaving millions more displaced.

Though these atrocities have been verified through survivor accounts and historical records, to this day, not all countries have recognized the atrocities as “genocide” – the foremost being Turkey, along with others, including the United States.

In a Huffington Post article, “The United States Should Remember Raphael Lemkin’s Words and Formally Recognize the Armenian Genocide,” H.A. Goodman draws particular focus to Turkey’s animosity toward the genocide label, even threatening other countries that recognize the tragedy as genocide.

Most recently, Turkey’s resistance was displayed when Pope Francis referred to the slaughter as the “first genocide of the 20th century.” The Turkish government responded by recalling its ambassador to the Holy See.

But perhaps an even more shocking reality surrounding the Armenian Genocide is this: at the time the Ottoman Empire began exterminating the Armenians in 1915, its actions were not considered illegal. It would be another 33 years before genocide was named a crime under international law, through the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, after which the word “genocide” was created and used for the first time, only 4 years prior. For these two significant actions we have one man to thank, a largely unknown Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin.

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backpageBackpage.com has, for years, been a place for people to buy and sell household items, cars, post ads for apartment rentals … and for human trafficking. Despite the fact that the site allows for the trafficking of men, women and children, law enforcement has been lax in clamping down on the trading in flesh. Even worse, Backpage allows for the use of Bitcoin, which means such transactions are virtually untraceable.

Breitbart News reported:

A recent court case, Doe v. Backpage.com LLC, brings the issue in to astounding focus. The case filed through the Massachusetts federal court by two women details the horrifying abuses they endured as minors when they were sold for sex through ads placed on Backpage.com. Unfortunately, this case is not the first time we are hearing about this; it is one of the numerous accounts that have been reported in the last few years.

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basketballJust when I think I’ve heard and read everything about the slavery that is human trafficking, something new comes along. This time, it’s the trafficking of boys and young men for sports.

NPR’s Alexandra Starr writes about teens from Nigeria being lured to the U.S. with the promise of basketball scholarships, only to end up homeless on the streets of New York City or in foster care. Then there is this:

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security raided the Faith Baptist Christian Academy South in Ludowici, Ga., and discovered 30 young boys, mostly Dominican, who had been living in the campus gym, sleeping on the floor. Apparently students had been housed there since 2013. These boys also had been recruited to America with the promise of a high school education and a shot at a college scholarship.

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Trafficked workers striking against Signal International

Trafficked workers striking against Signal International

While sex trafficking gets a lot of media attention, labor trafficking is the larger problem globally. Recently, the largest court case ever involving labor trafficking was settled in Mississippi against Signal International. (You can read more about the case here.)

Labor trafficking is not a secret. However, we are just beginning to grasp the scope of the problem and the deep wounds it inflicts on its victims. In The Economist this week, the magazine goes so far as to say “its everywhere:”

Estimates of the number of workers trapped in modern slavery are, inevitably, sketchy. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), an arm of the UN, puts the global total at around 21m, with 5m in the sex trade and 9m having migrated for work, either within their own countries or across borders. Around half are thought to be in India, many working in brick kilns, quarries or the clothing trade. Bonded labour is also common in parts of China, Pakistan, Russia and Uzbekistan—and rife in Thailand’s seafood industry … A recent investigation by Verité, an NGO, found that a quarter of all workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry were in forced labour.

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HTFinal CoverPlease note update on free ebook giveaway.

Acton’s latest monograph, A Vulnerable World: The High Price of Human Trafficking, will be available as a free ebook download beginning Wednesday, March 11 through Friday, March 13. To access the free download, click on this link during the two-day time period.

Today, human trafficking impacts entire industries and job sectors—both legitimate and illegitimate. Monetarily, it is the second largest criminal activity in the world. Only the illegal drug trade is more profitable—and trafficking and drug smuggling are often linked. The profits generated from human trafficking play an enormous role in national and global economies. There is also the untold human cost. It is, as Pope Francis said, an open wound on humanity.

Experts believe that in the next ten years human trafficking (if left unchecked) will become more profitable to criminals than drugs and arms trafficking and will continue to grow in both developed and developing countries. The purpose of this monograph is to outline both the economic dimension and the moral fallout of modern slavery and to suggest ways that the business of trading in human beings can be severely curtailed.

One of the trailers used by Signal, International to house workers

One of the trailers used by Signal, International to house workers

While sex trafficking gets a lot of attention in the media, labor trafficking is actually more common. It largely affects middle-aged men, most of whom are looking for ways to support themselves and their families. Often faced with overwhelming poverty, these men make ill-informed and risky choices, hoping that what they are being told by potential employers is true.

In a landmark case, a Gulf Coast company, Signal International, has been ordered to pay $14 million in damages to men they had “hired” from India.

After more than four weeks of testimony and several days of deliberations, the jury found that marine construction company Signal International and its agents engaged in human trafficking, forced labor and racketeering, among other violations. (more…)

A brick factory in India

A brick factory in India

International Justice Mission [IJM] works around the world to bolster rule of law, fight corruption and help human trafficking victims. In India, human trafficking – both sex trafficking and labor trafficking – is rampant. IJM announced that government officials (who had been trained by and working with IJM) were able to free 333 people from labor trafficking at a brick factory last week.

They [the trafficking victims] lived in tiny, thatched-roof huts. Each couple was responsible to make 2,000 bricks a week; children as young as 12 worked alongside their parents to help meet this enormous quota. (more…)

HTFinal CoverThis week on Radio Free Acton, I spoke with my colleague Elise Graveline Hilton about her new monograph A Vulnerable World: The High Price of Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking is not a pleasant subject to discuss; it can be hard to believe that in our modern world, people are still enslaved and exploited sexually or for their labor, treated as nothing more than commodities to be used in the pursuit of illegal profit. And yet the practice is widespread and growing, even in the developed world. It is incumbent upon all of us who believe in the inherent dignity of the human person to understand the nature of this awful criminal activity, to know how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, and to stand ready to assist those who are at risk of being trafficked or who have become ensnared in that dark world.

In this week’s podcast, Elise talks about her monograph and provides some basic resources for everyone interested in fighting the scourge of human trafficking. You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below; beyond the jump, I’ve included video of the event Elise organized last year at the Acton Building to shine a light on human trafficking in Acton’s home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Human Trafficking Resources:

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slavery-handsThousands of girls and women in Iraq and Syria have been captured by the Islamic State and sold into sex slavery. But one Iraqi man is trying to save them by buying sex slaves in order to free and reunite them with their families.

As the Christian Post reports, “an Iraqi man, who remains nameless, disguises himself as a human trafficking dealer in order to ‘infiltrate’ the Islamic State and get the militants to sell him sex slaves. But in purchasing sex slaves, the man finds a way to reunite them with their fathers, husbands, and the rest of their family.”

It’s hard to criticize a man for using his resources and risking his life in order to free these women. But while the individual effects—women and girls being freed—are laudatory, the long term effect of implementing the policy on a large scale could be disastrous.

In the 1990s, humanitarian groups traveled to Sudan to redeem slaves by buying them out of slavery. The result of the program, as economist Tyler Cowen explains, was likely an increase in the number of people enslaved.

china wedding cakeChina’s brutal one-child policy means that men far outnumber women in China. Men can’t find brides, and that leaves the door open for human-trafficking.

Adam Minter reports that some men in China are willing (and able) to pay upwards of $64,000 to woo a woman into marriage. For those that can’t that, they can turn to marriage brokers. Unfortunately, many of these marriage brokers are human traffickers. (more…)