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AI INDEX: EUR 70/009/2004     1 April 2004


Serbia and Montenegro (Kosovo)
The legacy of past human rights abuses

5. Trafficking in women and girls for forced prostitution(31)

Amnesty International considers that the trafficking(32) of women into forced prostitution is one of the most widespread and pervasive forms of violence against women.(33) Since the deployment in July 1999 of an international peacekeeping force (KFOR) and the establishment of a UN civilian administration (UNMIK), Kosovo has become a major destination country, as well as increasingly a source country, for women and girls trafficked into forced prostitution. Amnesty International notes the repeated remarks of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women on the association between the growth of trafficking of women and children and post-war militarization, complicity by peace-keeping forces, the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, and the necessity for means of ensuring the accountability of such forces. (34)

The development of the trafficking of women ands girls for forced prostitution into Kosovo was observed by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women in her address to the UN Human Rights Commission in April 2001, in which she referred to reports of a "vast increase in trafficking activity" in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. She stated:

      "It is absolutely essential that all UN forces are held to the same standards of international human rights law as are nation states..... To do otherwise, creates a climate of impunity in which offences proliferate ... [e]specially where UN is running administrations such as in Kosovo and East Timor we feel it's absolutely essential that some kind of structure be in place to deal with these kinds of issues." (35)
Following the arrival of KFOR in July 1999, by late 1999 the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) had reported significant concentrations of organized prostitution, involving trafficked women, in four locations close to major concentrations of KFOR troops, with the military making up the majority of clients, some of whom were allegedly also involved in the trafficking process.(36) KFOR and UNMIK were publicly identified in early 2000 as a causal factor by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), then the lead counter-trafficking agency, which had established a presence in Kosovo in January 2000.(37) In May 2000, Pasquale Lupoli, Chief of Mission, alleged that KFOR troops and UN workers in Kosovo had fed the "mushrooming sex trade in which young girls are being forced into prostitution by criminal gangs", which he attributed "largely [down] to the international presence there". (38) However, since then the clientele has changed with over 80 per cent estimated to be Kosovars.

There has now been a marked growth in trafficking in Kosovo: from the 18 establishments identified by UNIFEM in late 1999, 75 or so were listed in the first "Off-Limits List"(39) issued by UNMIK Police in January 2001, and in July 2003, the UNMIK list detailed over 200 bars, restaurants and cafes where trafficked women were suspected to work, by March 2004 the number had fallen slightly to some 180.

In addition to women trafficked into Kosovo from outside, predominantly from Moldova, Bulgaria and Ukraine, increasing numbers of Kosovar Albanians - the majority of them believed to be minors - are being internally trafficked, while non-governmental organizations in European Union (EU) countries report that some Kosovar Albanian women and girls are now being trafficked into EU countries.(40)

The authorities were slow to respond to the situation: indeed it appears that the members of the international community were, initially at least, the main clients and prosecutions for traffickers were rare with low sentences the norm. To specifically address the problem, the Police Trafficking and Prostitution Unit within CIVPOL was formed in October 2000, and in October 2003 UNMIK announced that since its formation it had raided over 2,000 places, rescued 300 trafficked victims and brought 140 charges. However, despite such measures, trafficking of women and girls for forced prostitution remains widespread and allegations of official complicity continue. On 9 June 2003 UNMIK police arrested three Kosovo Albanians and one Pakistani member of the international civilian police force (CIVPOL), whose immunity from prosecution (enjoyed by all UNMIK personnel) was waived, for sexual slavery and prostitution. The three Kosovars were charged with obscene behaviour, rape and other sex crimes, causing injuries and neglectful treatment of minors, while the CIVPOL officer was charged with obscene behaviour and failure to perform official duties.

Even after women and girls have escaped their traffickers or been "rescued" by the police, some were subsequently vulnerable to a further series of violations by law-enforcement, criminal justice and other agencies. Some found themselves arrested and imprisoned for prostitution or immigration status offences, and denied access to the basic rights of detainees. Those who are recognized as victims of trafficking may be denied access to their rights to reparation and redress for the violations they have suffered, and they may not be afforded adequate protection, support and services. Others found that they had little or no protection from their traffickers if they chose to testify in court.

Amnesty International urges that the protection of the rights of the victims of trafficking be adopted in Kosovo by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) and UNMIK in their construction and implementation of a National Plan of Action on Trafficking as required by the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe Task Force on Trafficking of which Kosovo is a member. The process of constructing such a plan started at a conference held in Pristina/Prishtinë on 20-22 October 2003.

Amnesty International is calling on the Kosovo authorities (UNMIK, KFOR and PISG as relevant) to:

  • do their utmost to implement all the necessary measures to end the trafficking of women and girls to, from and within Kosovo for forced prostitution;
  • ensure the protection of victims of trafficking;
  • implement policies which do not in any way discriminate against the victims of trafficking, and which fully afford them their rights;
  • ensure that UNMIK and KFOR personnel and others reasonably suspected of violations of human rights violations and criminal offences in connection with trafficking, including the knowing use of the services of trafficked women and girls, are brought to justice.


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