Vatican summit of judges pledges aid in trafficking fight
By Associated Press | June 3, 2016, 18:06 EST
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Judges and prosecutors from around the world pledged Friday to crack down on human trafficking and help victims of modern-day slavery in the latest Vatican initiative to draw attention to the problem and rally resources to fight it.
At a Vatican summit of judges, prosecutors and other public officials, Pope Francis signed a declaration declaring human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution and the trafficking of organs as a “crime against humanity” that should be prosecuted and punished as such.
The 10-point declaration, which was also signed by the conference participants, pledged increased funding for international cooperation to boost prosecutions of traffickers and consumers of the sex trade. It also pledged better support for victims, including issuing temporary residence permits, and said repatriation should never be the default judgment against victims.
History’s first Latin American pontiff has made the fight against human trafficking a priority of his pontificate as part of his emphasis on looking out for society’s most marginalized, including refugees and the poor.
In 2014, he and 25 religious leaders signed a declaration pledging to eradicate modern-day slavery by 2020. A year later, he invited mayors from around the world to a summit where they pledged to work to end trafficking and the involuntary repatriation of victims. The 2016 edition focused on judges and prosecutors, with guests including the supreme court judges of Mexico and Argentina, Britain’s commissioner against modern slavery, and the U.S. ambassador responsible for trafficking.
In his address to the summit, Francis urged the judges and prosecutors to pay particular attention to the crime of trafficking — but to make sure the punishments are not an end in and of themselves.
“A punishment that doesn’t give rise to hope is torture, it is not punishment,” he said, repeating his opposition to the death penalty.
Alison Saunders, the British director of public prosecutions, told Friday’s conference that there has been a shift in the profile of victims of trafficking in the past two years, with more adult men, rather than women, being victims of forced labor in Britain. Previously, women forced into prostitution tended to account for most victims, she said.
For his part, Richard S. Moultrie Jr., an assistant U.S. attorney, told the summit that the increasing crime of domestic servitude is often hard to detect because it occurs in the home, with victims often isolated by linguistic barriers, psychological abuse and fears of their own illegal residency status.
“We must view the crime through a more expansive prism of criminal conduct, where trafficking is achieved through non-violent means,” he said.
Written by Nicole Winfield