Briefing: Sanctions and Trafficking

  • 2019•05•23

    Dr Rebecca Brubaker briefed a high-level roundtable on sanctions and human trafficking. She outlines below how sanctions can be most effectively target traffickers.

    The first challenge to effective implementation of sanctions and human trafficking lies in effective design, identification of targets, and listing.

    • When designing sanctions against, it is important to decide:
    • Whether you are targeting just traffickers or also their associates.
    • Whether you are including secondary sanctions for violations.
    • Whether you will need specific exemptions (e.g. a humanitarian exemptions or travel ban exemptions to enable listed traffickers to attend judicial proceedings?).

    When identifying individuals, for sanctioning, it is crucial to ensure:

    • The members of the panel of experts are adequately trained, resourced, and operating under a sufficiently robust mandate to investigate and report on trafficking activities.
    • It is also crucial that the experts have access to the region in question and can move freely within it, which is not always the case.
    • Even when sanctions experts gather sufficient information, some States, such as the U.S., will still require two additional independent sources before they can support the listing.
    • Ensure listing requests include sufficient information (i.e. name, alias, birth date, birth place, height, eye colour, nationality, passport number, biometrics, etc.) for the name to stand up in your national or regional courts.

    When choosing individuals to list:

    • Is your purpose to constrain their activities (where possible) or primarily to stigmatize them and send a clear signal to others that there are consequences for trafficking? Your purpose will determine the level of designation warranted (i.e. commanders, financiers, middlemen or foot soldiers).
    • It is also crucial to adopt the asset freeze and travel ban swiftly and discretely to minimize the risk of evasion. Yet at the same time sanctions committees must ensure that we do not sacrifice accuracy for speed, as mis-designations will undermine the legitimacy of the measure and subject the tool to further legal scrutiny.

    The second challenge lies in effective enforcement. Enforcing the designations (asset freezes and travel bans) requires a number of steps. To outline just a few:

    Drawing first from the 2000 Interlaken manual:

    • Ensure there is a national legal framework enabling compliance.
    • Clearly define acts constituting a breach of the sanctions, the nature of the violation (civil or criminal), and the penalty.
    • Work to harmonize penalties so that the state with the softest penalties does not become the weakest link in enforcement.
    • Specific to asset freezes, foster cooperative relations with financial institutions through systems of warnings and civil penalties rather than criminal penalties.

    Drawing from work of the Financial Sector Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking:

    • Take steps to facilitate information sharing between banks and between banks and regulators and law enforcement.
    • Discourage excessive de-risking as it can drive activities further underground.
    • Encourage the financial sector to work with survivors to strengthen their risk analysis.

    For Sanctions Committees and the Secretariat:

    • Create an IAN on implementing measures against traffickers and continue to encourage States to submit substantive implementation reports.
    • Periodically review the information on listed traffickers to ensure it is accurate and as complete as possible. If mistakes are found, update the list immediately.
    • And periodically review the measures to check for unintended consequences – e.g. are the sanctions forcing traffickers further underground, and making them harder to identify and monitor?

    A final point is that sanctions are meant to complement to rather than be a replacement for judicial procedures.