UN chief urges countries to ratify legal treaties to fight slavery

A girl recovers from her year-long captivity by the Lord’s Resistance Army, Uganda

2 December 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today marked the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery by urging States to bring into force all the legal instruments necessary to eradicate the scourge.

Although States worldwide support laws banning slavery, the practice still persists in many forms, he noted in his message for the Day, which is observed annually on 2 December.

“Modern slavery is a crime. People who perpetrate, condone or facilitate it must be brought to justice. Victims and survivors have a right to remedies and reparations,” he stated.

Mr. Ban said that many legal instruments exist to fight the practice, praising the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which entered into force in 2003, and the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure recognition of slavery as a crime against humanity.

He urged the international community to contribute generously to the UN’s Trust Fund to help victims of slavery.

The Secretary-General also urged States to cooperate closely with the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

In her statement to mark the Day, Ms. Shahinian said that abuse of domestic workers constitutes a modern form of slavery. While contrasting it with paid domestic service where human rights are respected, Ms. Shahinian said the practice took place in every global region.

“Domestic workers who are subject to abuse – whether physical, emotional or sexual in nature –are effectively being treated as slaves,” she said. “This form of slavery takes place in households all across the world, and although the victims remain largely invisible to the larger public, domestic servitude constitutes a global human rights concern.”

Ms. Shahinian has worked as the first Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences since May 2008. In her latest report, she outlined the many different forms and shapes of domestic servitude and noted that the majority of victims are girls and women.

She joined her voice to the Secretary-General’s in urging States to engage in the development of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers to help make sure the Convention is based on the major human rights treaties.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Actors Moore and Kutcher join UN in launching trust fund for victims of trafficking

Related Stories





More videos »