Security Council Presidential Statement Says Human Trafficking Might Constitute War Crimes, as Members Consider Issue for First Time

SC/12165
16 December 2015
7584th Meeting (PM)

Security Council Presidential Statement Says Human Trafficking Might Constitute War Crimes, as Members Consider Issue for First Time

Members Briefed by Drugs and Crime Office Chief, Hear Moving ‘Front Line’ Accounts

The Security Council today deplored all acts of trafficking in human beings by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, underscoring that certain acts associated with that practice in the context of armed conflict might constitute war crimes.

Issuing presidential statement PRST/2015/25 in its first-ever meeting on human trafficking, the Council called upon Member States to reinforce their political commitment and improve their implementation of applicable legal obligations to criminalize, prevent and otherwise combat trafficking in persons, while enhancing efforts to “detect and disrupt” it.

The meeting heard briefings by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as two moving accounts from the front lines by Nick Grono, head of the Freedom Fund, and Nadia Murad Basee Taha, an Iraqi woman of the Yazidi faith.

“The Security Council expresses solidarity with and compassion for victims of trafficking,” said the statement read out by Samantha Power (United States), Council President for December.  It called upon Member States to hold accountable those engaging in human trafficking in armed conflict situations — “especially their Government employees and officials, as well as any contractors and subcontractors” — urging them to mitigate the risk that public procurement and supply chains might contribute to the practice.

Calling upon States to consider ratifying or acceding to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, the Council requested that the Secretary-General take all appropriate steps to reduce “to the greatest extent possible” the risk that the Organization’s procurement and supply chains might contribute to trafficking in persons in situations of armed conflict, and to report back on progress in 12 months.

Opening the meeting, Mr. Eliasson said millions of people were living as slaves, most of them women and children deceived or abducted into a life of suffering, exploitation, torture and servitude.  Thousands of men and boys had been forcibly conscripted by the LRA, while the plight of women and girls held by groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram was well known.  “Trafficking in persons is a crime and a violation of human rights and must be treated as such,” he emphasized.

Mr. Fedotov, speaking via videoconference from Vienna, said there were strong frameworks that could enable joint responses, notably the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  While most States parties had enacted relevant laws, 41 per cent had reported no trafficking convictions, or fewer than 10, per year.  “Clearly, this impunity must end,” he added, stressing that more must be done to foster cooperation.

Mr. Grono said that while slavery was hidden in most conflicts, ISIL was challenging that taboo.  More than 3,000 Yazidi women and girls were thought to be enslaved by the extremist group, which was advocating the revival of slavery, organizing slave markets and issuing official “how-to” manuals.  ISIL had institutionalized slavery and sexual violence in order to increase recruitment by promising male fighters access to women and girls, to populate a new “caliphate” through forced pregnancy, and to terrorize communities and generate revenue.

Breathing life into that account, Ms. Basee Taha said she had been living with her family when ISIL had attacked her village in August 2014.  Its fighters had taken her to Mosul as merchandise to be exchanged.  ISIL had made Yazidi women into “flesh to be trafficked in”, she said, adding:  “This is collective suffering.”  Imploring the Council to recognize acts of human trafficking as a genocide and to refer them to the International Criminal Court, she also urged members to help the Yazidis liberate their territory, establish an international budget to compensate victims, eliminate ISIL and bring perpetrators of trafficking to justice.

When the floor opened for debate, members praised Ms. Basee Taha’s courage in sharing her experiences while they roundly condemned human trafficking as slavery in the twenty-first century.  Some speakers emphasized that ISIL’s use of people as human shields, sexual slaves and forced labourers constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity, and thus punishable by the International Criminal Court.

Angola’s representative reinforced that sentiment, stressing that the Council must link human trafficking to war crimes and crimes against humanity, thereby enlarging the scope of those crime categories.  The staggering number of people living in slavery made a mockery of current efforts to combat the scourge.

Nigeria’s representative said the Council must consider expanding civilian mandates to include a trafficking dimension, stressing that her Government was determined to defeat Boko Haram, with the help of neighbouring countries, and to free all women and girls held by that group.

Malaysia’s delegate proposed that States offer reintegration programmes for women and children liberated from traffickers in order to protect them from re-stigmatization.  In a similar vein, Jordan’s representative said States must adopt legislative, legal and administrative reforms, as well as provide medical and psychological assistance.

Council President Power, (United States), speaking in her national capacity, said Ms. Basee Taha’s testimony was the most powerful rejection of what ISIL stood for, adding that slavery had become “a versatile weapon of war” for helping terrorist groups to generate revenue, among other aims.

Also speaking today were representatives of Spain, Chad, Lithuania, France, Russian Federation, China, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Chile and Venezuela.

The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:33 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of presidential statement PRST/2015/25 reads as follows:

“The Security Council recalls its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

“The Security Council recalls the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which includes the first internationally agreed definition of the crime of trafficking in persons and provides a framework to effectively prevent and combat trafficking in persons.

“The Security Council condemns in the strongest terms reported instances of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict.  The Security Council further notes that trafficking in persons undermines the rule of law and contributes to other forms of transnational organized crime, which can exacerbate conflict and foster insecurity.

“The Security Council deplores all acts of trafficking in persons undertaken by the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), including of Yazidis, as well as all ISIL’s violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of human rights, and deplores also any such trafficking in persons and violations and other abuses by the Lord's Resistance Army, and other terrorist or armed groups, including Boko Haram, for the purpose of sexual slavery, sexual exploitation, and forced labor which may contribute to the funding and sustainment of such groups, and underscores that certain acts associated with trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflict may constitute war crimes.

“The Security Council reiterates the critical importance of all Member States fully implementing relevant resolutions with respect to ISIL, including resolutions 2161 (2014), 2170 (2014), 2178 (2014), 2199 (2015) and 2249 (2015).  The Security Council further reiterates the critical importance of all Member States fully implementing relevant resolutions, including resolution 2195 (2014), which expresses concern that terrorists benefit from transnational organized crime in some regions, including from the trafficking of persons, as well as resolution 2242 (2015) which expresses concern that acts of sexual and gender-based violence are known to be part of the strategic objectives and ideology of certain terrorist groups.

“The Security Council calls upon Member States to reinforce their political commitment to and improve their implementation of applicable legal obligations to criminalize, prevent, and otherwise combat trafficking in persons, and to strengthen efforts to detect and disrupt trafficking in persons, including implementing robust victim identification mechanisms and providing access to protection and assistance for identified victims, particularly in relation to conflict.  The Security Council underscores in this regard the importance of international law enforcement cooperation, including with respect to investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases and in this regard calls for the continued support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in providing technical assistance upon request.

“The Security Council calls upon Member States to consider ratifying or acceding to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  The Security Council further calls upon States parties to this Convention and to the Protocol to redouble their efforts to implement them effectively.

“The Security Council takes note of the recommendations made by the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons, established by the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, since its inception, and calls upon States to strengthen their efforts in building the necessary political, economic and social conditions to tackle this crime.

“The Security Council notes the particular impact that trafficking in persons in situations of armed conflict has on women and children, including increasing their vulnerability to sexual and gender based violence.  The Security Council expresses its intention to continue to address this impact, including, as appropriate, in the context of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, within its mandate, and in the framework of its agenda to prevent and address sexual violence in armed conflict.

“The Security Council expresses solidarity with and compassion for victims of trafficking, including victims of trafficking related to armed conflicts worldwide and underscores the need for Member States and the UN System to proactively identify trafficking victims amongst vulnerable populations, including refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and address comprehensively victims' needs, including proactive victim identification and, as appropriate, the provision of or access to medical and psychosocial assistance, in the context of the UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, as well as ensure that victims of trafficking in persons are treated as victims of crime and in line with domestic legislation not penalized or stigmatized for their involvement in any unlawful activities in which they have been compelled to engage.

“The Security Council calls upon Member States to hold accountable those who engage in trafficking in persons in situations of armed conflict, especially their Government employees and officials, as well as any contractors and subcontractors, and urges Member States to take all appropriate steps to mitigate the risk that their public procurement and supply chains may contribute to trafficking in persons in situations of armed conflict.

“The Security Council welcomes existing efforts to address sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of UN peacekeeping missions, and requests the Secretary-General to identify and take additional steps to prevent and respond robustly to reports of trafficking in persons in UN peacekeeping operations, with the objective of ensuring accountability for exploitation.

“The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to take all appropriate steps to reduce to the greatest extent possible the risk that the UN's procurement and supply chains may contribute to the trafficking in persons in situations of armed conflict.

“The Security Council urges relevant UN agencies operating in armed conflict and post-conflict situations to build their technical capacity to assess conflict situations for instances of trafficking in persons, proactively screen for potential victims of trafficking, and facilitate access to needed services for identified victims.

“The Security Council expresses its intent to continue to address trafficking in persons with respect to the situations on its seizure list.

“The Security Council requests that the Secretary-General report back to the Council on progress made in 12 months to implement better existing mechanisms countering trafficking in persons and to carry out steps requested in this presidential statement.”

Briefings

JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said millions of people were living as slaves, most of them women and children deceived or abducted into a life of suffering, exploitation, torture and servitude.  “This ruthless practice has become a massive global industry and it must be stopped,” he emphasized, noting that there were more displaced people today than at any time since the Second World War.  Millions more were caught up in conflict and unable to flee.  They were sold and trafficked for sexual enslavement, prostitution, illegal adoption, slave labour or recruitment as child soldiers.

Indeed, thousands of men and boys had been forcibly conscripted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), while the plight of women and girls held by groups such as Boko Haram and Da’esh (also known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) was well known, he said.  Thousands of Yazidi women in Iraq had been enslaved by ISIL.  “Trafficking in persons is a crime and a violation of human rights and must be treated as such,” he said.  The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on Trafficking in Persons offered a framework for action, he said, urging all countries to ratify and implement it.

There was also the United Nations Global Plan of Action against trafficking, which together with the International Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons must be more robustly implemented, he continued.  Ending human trafficking also meant committing to resolve conflicts in which the practice thrived, he said, encouraging States to contribute to the United Nations trust fund for victims.  Human trafficking was often described as unthinkable and unspeakable, but there was a shared responsibility to speak clearly about the abuses to which innumerable and nameless victims were subjected.

YURI FEDOTOV, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said via videoconference from Vienna that today’s timely meeting could help draw attention to, and promote action on, a particularly appalling aspect of the crime-terrorism-conflict nexus — that the most vulnerable, caught in the crossfire of conflict, were falling victim to trafficking in human beings.  Noting that Syria had been primarily a destination country for trafficking before 2011, he said that now at least 10 countries had detected Syrian victims.  Trafficking victims from Iraq had been more frequently detected since ISIL had launched its insurgency.  Trafficking victims from the Horn of Africa were increasingly detected in Europe, he said, adding that scores of victims were also bought, sold and exploited by groups like ISIL and Boko Haram.

He said the international community already had strong frameworks that could enable joint responses against trafficking, in particular the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  Such instruments could provide a legal and practical framework for countries to cooperate in order to address a crime commonly involving multiple jurisdictions.  Most States parties had enacted relevant laws, but 41 per cent had reported no convictions, or fewer than 10, for trafficking per year.  “Clearly, this impunity must end,” he said, adding that more could and should be done to foster cooperation among States affected by trafficking.

Over the past two years, UNODC had helped more than 60 countries to effectively implement the provisions of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, he said.  Dedicated programmes had also been set up in key regions affected by conflict.  UNODC had developed a plan to support Member States in the Mediterranean, which encompassed research and analysis, national capacity-building, regional and interregional cooperation and enhanced protection of victims.  By strengthening criminal justice capacities and the regulatory frameworks of banks and financial institutions, the agency had also helped to disrupt the illicit financial flows that enabled criminal activities, he said.  Within the United Nations system, UNODC sought a strong, coordinated and consistent response through participation in the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT), he said.  “By harmonizing our approaches and taking advantage of each agency’s value added, we can help to ensure that there are no gaps in the UN system’s response.”

NICK GRONO, Chief Executive Officer, Freedom Fund, said armed conflict left civilians vulnerable to extreme forms of exploitation, including forced labour, slavery and slavery-like practices.  That was seen most starkly now with the enslavement of Yazidi women and girls by ISIL.  The massive displacement of civilian populations due to conflict also facilitated the movement of people into highly exploitative situations that was the very definition of human trafficking provided by the Palermo Protocol.

Giving a historical overview of trafficking, forced labour and traditional forms of slavery, including during the Second World War and in the Balkans, West Africa and Cambodia, he said that today the most obvious case was ISIL.  In most conflicts, slavery was hidden, but ISIL was directly challenging that taboo.  More than 3,000 Yazidi women and girls were currently thought to be enslaved by the extremist group, which was advocating the revival of slavery, organizing slave markets and issuing official “how-to” manuals.  ISIL had institutionalized slavery and sexual violence in order to increase recruitment by promising male fighters access to women and girls, to populate a new “caliphate” through forced pregnancy and to terrorize communities and generate revenue.

He went on to state that enslavement had also been seen in conflicts in Africa.  Boko Haram had a clear policy of enslavement, child recruitment, sexual slavery and forced marriage.  It had abducted more than 2,000 people.  More broadly, conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and the Sahel were leaving huge numbers of people vulnerable to human trafficking and enslavement.  Increasingly, closed borders and growing unwillingness by States to accept refugees exacerbated the problem, he said, pointing out that displacement in Myanmar was driving ethnic Rohingya Muslims into forced labour.  Even if individuals set out on “voluntary” migration, they might discover that they were subjected to illegal exploitation, he said.

Many of the conflicts with which the Council was wrestling in Africa were driven by industrial-scale exploitation of conflict resources, fuelled by forced labour, he continued.  Noting that the Council had taken steps to encourage corporate due diligence with a view to preventing “conflict resources” from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Somalia from entering global supply chains, he said that in other cases, human trafficking involved the movement of children into forced labour for armed groups.  In the case of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, there were questions of State involvement in human trafficking.

He said the Council must send a strong deterrent signal to armed groups by calling an organized policy of human trafficking what it legally was — a crime against humanity.  It must also make clear that it wanted all parts of the United Nations system to work more effectively together in helping to tackle modern slavery in conflict zones.  The Council must also call upon the Secretary-General to appoint a time-bound special envoy for the next three years to develop system-wide guidance that would help United Nations actors figure out how to work better together and establish a strong global partnership with the private sector and civil society.  The Council must further ask such a special envoy to develop supply-chain measures to ensure that legitimate businesses did not unwittingly encourage human trafficking from conflict zones.

NADIA MURAD BASEE TAHA, an Iraqi woman of the Yazidi faith, said she was a descendent of one of the world’s oldest religions that faced extinction due to ISIL’s genocide of her society.  More than 3,400 women and children were still suffering, having been abducted by an armed group that was trying to destroy Yazidi culture and freedom.  Recounting her experiences, she said she had been living with her family when ISIL had attacked her village in August 2014.  Its members had come from other States with the aim of eliminating Yazidis under the pretext that they were infidels.  They had taken her as merchandise to be exchanged, a crime organized through a policy to destroy the Yazidi identity, she said, adding that ISIL’s actions could only be understood as genocide.

ISIL had invited Yazidis to attend school, but had instead separated women and girls from men and boys, she said, adding that six of her brothers had been killed and three had survived.  Women and children had been taken to another region and violated along the way.  ISIL had taken girls to Mosul with more than 150 Yazidi families, and they had been exchanged as gifts.  She said one man had wanted to take her; he had beaten her until another man had come and she had implored him to take her out of fear of the first man.  The man had asked her to change her religion but she had refused.  He had asked her to marry him and, few days later, he had forced her to join his military faction, forcing her to wear clothes that did not cover her body, beating her and committing crimes against her until she had fainted.

She said that today she lived in Germany, where she had received medical treatment.  “It was not just my suffering, this is collective suffering,” she emphasized.  Much Yazidi territory was still under ISIL’s control and many Yazidis had drowned while fleeing to Europe.  ISIL had made Yazidi women into “flesh to be trafficked”.  They had committed murder, slavery and other acts which should qualify as genocide.  She implored the Council to describe those acts as genocide and to refer them to the International Criminal Court.  She also urged members to help the Yazidis liberate their territory, and requested an international budget to compensate victims.  “Please open your societies to us,” she said.  “We need countries that respect our dignity.”  ISIL must be eliminated and the genocide perpetrators brought to justice.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States), council President for December, then read out a presidential statement on “trafficking in persons in situations of conflict”.

Statements

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said he was overcome by Ms. Basee Taha’s testimony, having been lucky never to have experienced personally what sexual violence and human trafficking meant.  The presidential statement was an important step in the right direction, but not enough.  Sexual violence exercised strategically by ISIL and other groups could lead to an increase in the numbers of girls and women subjected to trafficking, he said, adding that nowadays it was more dangerous to be a woman in conflict than a soldier.  Describing as unacceptable that part of the political and financial economy of terrorist groups consisted of trafficking in women and children, he said the first mistake in addressing the matter was to believe it was limited only to ISIL.  Another mistake was to think that trafficking related exclusively to terrorists, refugees and the displaced.  There was a need to implement existing architecture such as the Palermo Protocol, and to strengthen the role of the United Nations in combating the scourge through sanctions committees, among other means.  Noting that Spain had been at the forefront in trying to help victims of terrorism, he declared:  “Nadia, I can assure you that my delegation will continue fighting so that such situations as yours will never happen again.”

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) described human trafficking as an organized criminal activity that generated profits in the dozens of billions of dollars annually.  It was the new slavery of the twenty-first century.  Boko Haram, the LRA and ISIL imposed forced labour, slavery or organ trafficking and other crimes, which Chad condemned fervently.  Aware of the link between terrorism and trafficking in persons, he asked Member States to ratify the Palermo Convention and Additional Protocols, as requested in Council resolutions.  Effective coordination was crucial to identifying perpetrators and bringing them to justice, he said.  Trafficking in migrants to Europe was taking millions of young people to the Mediterranean, a severe crime.  States of origin, host and transit countries must tackle the root causes of the problem, and the international community must finance programmes that would create jobs for women, in particular those in countries from where migrants originated.  The Council must be united to ban the supply of weapons to armed groups, and end the destabilization of weak States, he emphasized.

DAINIUS BAUBLYS (Lithuania), pointing out that human trafficking and smuggling were multimillion dollar businesses in which the nexus between criminals, traffickers and terrorists was well established, stated:  “Frankly, it is morally unacceptable for this Council to stand back and allow this evil alliance […] to profit from human suffering.”  The least it could do would be to draw attention to the plight of the victims by adding a strong voice of condemnation, he said.  Better coordination within the United Nations system would also help to proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, especially refugees and internally displaced persons.  The role of peacekeeping operations must also be explored, and the training of law-enforcement officers, judicial officials, border officers and social workers must be improved.  He called upon Member States to cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in efforts to hold perpetrators accountable.  Regional organizations could play a critical role in combating human trafficking, he stressed, citing efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as an example.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that smuggling people was among the most profitable forms of trafficking, with an annual $32 billion turnover.  It was both a way to spread terror and a source of financing.  In Syria, women had been raped and forced into marriage and prostitution in ISIL-controlled areas.  In Iraq, Yazidi women had been sold as sex slaves.  The International Commission of Inquiry had found Yazidi women and girls with price tags on their foreheads in the markets of Raqqa, Syria.  Such actions could constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and, in some cases, genocide, he said, emphasizing that the Council must act to protect civilians.  On numerous occasions, it had debated subjects linked to trafficking in persons, including resolution 2242 (2015), on women peace and security.  Stressing that preventing and protecting victims while combating impunity must be the priority, he said the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Palermo Convention and other instruments must be fully implemented.  France, a contributor to the UNODC global programme against human trafficking, supported the establishment of a review mechanism to facilitate implementation, he said.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) cited atrocities committed by ISIL against ethnic, religious and other minorities, noting that thousands of Yazidis had become live merchandise, forced into marriage and sexual slavery.  Others had been forced to flee their homes and had died.  The Government of the Russian Federation condemned criminal practices by terrorists and called for greater efforts to streamline the sharing of information, cooperation and identification of financing channels.  Recalling that organizations financially supporting terrorists were subject to Council sanctions, he called for harsh measures against organizers and mediators in the trafficking of human beings.  Only a holistic approach, not simply stricter migration policies, could achieve an effective outcome, he said.  The Russian Federation favoured strengthening the role of the United Nations and UNODC, and involving national bodies in the fight against modern slavery.  The Council could make an important contribution where the scale and urgency of a situation threatened international peace and security.  Its guide remained the Global Plan of Action, adopted by the General Assembly, the implementation of which would increase awareness and cooperation.

WANG MIN (China), citing trafficking violations by ISIL, Boko Haram and other groups across the Middle East and Africa, said the international community must coordinate the protection of women and children in conflict situations while ensuring respect for sovereignty.  The affected countries bore responsibility for protecting women and girls on their territory, and the international community must help them increase their capacity.  An integrated approach was needed to address the root causes of trafficking, while cooperation was needed to provide a security guarantee for humanitarian assistance.  Political processes should be advanced and differences resolved through dialogue.  Emphasizing the need to give priority to counter-terrorism efforts, he said human trafficking had become a source of financing for terrorism and the international community must cooperate in order to cut off that financing channel.  The Council, UNODC and UN-Women must coordinate better on the basis of a division of labour in order to protect women and children in conflict situations.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said terrorist groups had brazenly introduced a new dimension to sexual exploitation in conflict situations which constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Nigeria was determined to defeat Boko Haram with the help of neighbouring countries and to free all women and girls held by that group.  Eradicating human trafficking and modern slavery was beyond the capacity of any single State, requiring the involvement of the international community, States, civil society and community leaders, she said.  In addition to preventive measures, States must engage in protection of victims, she said, adding that their rehabilitation was also part of protection.  The Council must play a more central role by specifying trafficking in persons as a stand-alone issue on its agenda, she emphasized, adding that it must strengthen its cooperation with UNODC and other actors through regular briefings.  The Council must also consider expanding civilian mandates to include a trafficking dimension.  States must meet their obligations under the Palermo Protocol and the Council must demonstrate greater leadership, she stressed.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said it was hard to overestimate the impact of Ms. Basee Taha’s testimony.  Her bravery had inspired the Council to undertake the action she had been calling for.  The Government of the United Kingdom agreed with her demand that ISIL must be completely eliminated.  Sadly, the extremist group was not alone because trafficking in persons was prevalent across the world.  Noting that the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 21 million people were victims of trafficking and slavery, he said the international community must give the issue the priority it deserved.  Greater support was needed for at-risk groups, and the Council must end the instability that allowed human trafficking to thrive, he stressed.  Recalling that the international community had made a pledge to eradicate forced labour and slavery, he said that in order to make that goal a reality, every Member State must show the required leadership.  A global consensus must be reached on the issue and financial institutions must do more due diligence.  All Governments must ensure that all minority groups were protected.  The Council must ensure stability and security, which meant taking back territory held by ISIL, among other things, he said, adding that ultimately it was about addressing the root causes of trafficking.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand), expressing his “revulsion” at ISIL’s violations against the Yazidi, and its apparent programme of mass enslavement of women and children in particular, said “trafficking exacerbates conflict and conflict exacerbates trafficking”.  While recognizing the difficulty of dealing with the phenomenon in conflicts that were intractable and resistant to international intervention, more effective conflict prevention was critical in addressing the matter.  Investigation must be undertaken and accountability established at both the domestic and international levels, he said, adding that cooperation was critical when trafficking of persons involved crossing borders.  New Zealand called upon Member States to implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, and encouraged support for political-level initiatives, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s International Parliamentary Coalition for Victims of Sexual Slavery.  Trafficking was an increasingly important dimension of conflict and the Council must continue to monitor it and be ready to take preventive action when possible to do so, he said.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) praised Ms. Basee Taha for her courage in sharing her experiences, which raised the question of how to repair such immense injustice.  Citing the enslavement of thousands by such groups as ISIL, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, he said millions of displaced persons and refugees were “easy prey” for such abuse.  Some States were “totally unable” to protect their citizens from violations of their basic human rights, with many “sold as cattle” into a life of horror.  The staggering number of people living in slavery made a mockery of efforts to combat the scourge.  Noting that ISIL’s actions met the threshold of crimes against humanity and genocide, while those of Boko Haram could constitute crimes against humanity, he said the Council must continue to send a strong message by linking human trafficking to war crimes and crimes against humanity, thereby enlarging the scope of those crime categories.  The current approach was to emphasize immediate lifesaving aid over efforts to fight trafficking, and it was imperative to consider the issue as related to international peace and security, he stressed.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan), describing ISIL as “a group of criminals” that the international community must overcome, said terrorist groups had carried out the worst forms of modern slavery, systematically committing crimes against ethnic and religious groups.  They abducted children who then served as human shields, sexual slaves or forced labourers.  Such acts, committed in war zones, could be war crimes and crimes against humanity, punishable by the International Criminal Court.  He called for redoubled efforts to combat trafficking in persons, especially by terrorist groups, at the national, regional and international levels.  States must adopt legislative, legal and administrative reforms, he said, adding that they could also provide medical and psychological assistance, as well as reintegration programmes.  The international community must provide technical, material and logistical support to fragile States unable to protect their people against trafficking, efforts that should involve UNODC, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), ILO and others.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said the frequency of deplorable trafficking acts perpetrated by ISIL and others had shown that they were a threat to international peace and security meriting greater scrutiny.  Malaysia rejected any link connecting ISIL and Boko Haram with Islam, a religion founded on human dignity.  Welcoming the adoption of presidential statement PRST/2015/25 as a first step towards recognizing the peace and security dimension of trafficking, he emphasized the need to take “decisive and coordinated” actions against perpetrators.  Better integration of efforts should be taken under the international legal framework, especially the Palermo Protocol.  He proposed that States offer reintegration programmes for liberated women and children to protect them from re-stigmatization.  They must also implement the Palermo Convention, which contained provisions on physical and psychological recovery.  Improved coordination meant streamlining the outcomes envisioned for questions of children and armed conflict, he said, noting that links could be made with the 1267 Committee and other sanctions committees.

CHRISTIAN BARROS MELET (Chile) said millions of people all over the world were victims of human trafficking and all States were affected in one form or another.  The abduction, exploitation and trafficking of person by terrorist groups was for economic gain but, more importantly, it was a strategy to sow terror, he said, adding that the situation of the Yazidi people was particularly serious.  There was an urgent need to improve mechanisms for protecting such populations, he said urging implementation of Council resolution 2225 (2015).  It was also an urgent need to improve medical and psychological support for victims of trafficking and to change existing perceptions about abused girls so that they could be reintegrated and not become victims a second time.  It was also important for peacekeeping operations to expand their civilian-protection efforts, he said, urging States to be proactive in combating trafficking by addressing such root causes as poverty and discrimination.

HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) said trafficking was a transnational crime that had spared no region.  The mass displacement of populations increased the people’s vulnerability to becoming victims, especially women, girls and boys.  The tactic was used by terrorist groups to finance their activities.  Unfortunately, the training and equipping of non-State actors with the goal of breaking up States only fuelled such groups as ISIL and the commission of atrocities and war crimes against civilian populations.  The severe humanitarian situation of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants was exacerbated by poverty, terrorism and violence, he said, adding that another factor was the increasingly severe restrictions on immigration, he said, pointing out that immigrants were not the cause of terrorism as some politicians thought, but the consequence.

Ms. POWER (United States), Council President for December, spoke in her national capacity, describing Ms. Basee Taha’s testimony as the most powerful rejection of what ISIL stood for.  At a time when refugee admissions were being politicized, her experience was a powerful rebuke.  The Council was meeting for the first time on the issue, she said, noting that it was “a bit baffling” that it had not previously taken it on as had been the case with arms trafficking, for instance.  Despite efforts to eradicate trafficking, the crime persisted and the statistics were staggering.  The taboo against slavery was challenged by ISIL and Boko Haram, and groups bragged about it, she said, adding that raping female slaves was encouraged.  Slavery had become “a versatile weapon of war” for helping terrorist groups generate revenue, among other things.  It was a “grotesque race to the bottom”.  Such crimes must be documented and condemned, she emphasized, noting that her country had assembled a coalition of 65 countries to destroy ISIL.

She said tomorrow’s Council session of finance ministers would aim to cut off ISIL’s financing, adding that the United States was helping African countries to combat Boko Haram and the LRA.  Stressing the need to ensure that United Nations procurement and other activities did not help trafficking, she said modern slavery must be cut out of supply chains.  Treating victims required sensitizing people such as health-care providers, she said, noting that aid workers often lacked training to spot the signs of trafficking.  The United States was training 50,000 airline employees to identify victims.  There was an enormous disparity between profits generated from forced labour and amounts spent on preventing trafficking.  “In giving freedom to the slave we give freedom to the free,” she said, quoting President Abraham Lincoln.  “Our freedom is bound up with the fates of millions of victims of trafficking.  We ensure our freedom by fighting to give them their freedom.”

For information media. Not an official record.