The ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons (ACTIP) is the first product of ASEAN that demonstrates a desire to work together as member states to combat a particular form of transnational crimes. Being a serious nature of the crime that continues to affect and take tolls on the lives of people using various modus of deception, abduction and exploitation, efforts to combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) need a human-rights based approach for a number of reasons.
First, because the modus operandi of TIP grows fast and complex, abusing existing cultural traditions (such as arranged marriages), lifestyle (such as desire to work abroad, to adopt children, or to enjoy lavish life), tourism, education, and vulnerabilities of families by using various means that is not easy to detect. Second, because the efforts to combat TIP more often lead to the victims and at individual recruiters rather than the mastermind and the demand side of the crime. Third, TIP is often mistakenly seen as merely immigration problem. Fourth, attention for victims and potential victims is only present to the extent that they are relevant for law enforcement purposes.
AICHR appreciates the warm gesture of the SOMTC to work together through a regular Consultation and Cooperation with AICHR to ensure that ASEAN’s effort to combat TIP is victim-oriented while also effective in combating the crime from its roots. This event in Jakarta is the First Consultation Meeting between AICHR and SOMTC which were attended by SOMTC Representatives, many of whom are in the leadership positions in the country’s units of anti transnational crime, the ACWC, SOMSWD, government officials and non-government organizations with consultative status of AICHR. AICHR is humbled by the enthusiastic participants who stayed fully through the event and the fruitful exchange of information and thinking to further human-rights based approach to combating TIP.
The Consultation highlighted the following points for going forward. First, AICHR noted the joint intention from the participants to continue working together across sectors with AICHR and SOMTC to implement human-rights based approach in combating TIP both through formal mechanism as well as informal means of cooperation. The informal means were usefully built through the consultation and the various activities AICHR is organizing on the topic of anti-TIP, which was recognized as needed for immediate response. Second, ASEAN noted the experience of Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore, the countries of ASEAN that have ratified ACTIP on how they prepared legal frameworks, capacity building activities, and financial support to combat TIP. ASEAN also learned how countries in Europe and the United States develop their procedures to interview victims and to investigate the crime to the roots. Third, segments of law enforcer and AICHR Representatives highlighted the importance of preventing this crime to cut down the crime cases given that investigations are taking some time and a mechanism for human-rights based approach in prosecution and victim rehabilitation is still undergoing.
As the outcome of the consultation, the participants recommended to provide tailored support for the specific needs of individual ASEAN member-states towards ratifying and strengthening ACTIP implementation. In the future, a number of delegates in the forum proposed that this AICHR consultation meeting can act as the institutionalized consultation among ASEAN bodies related to combating TIP. In addition, the SOMTC Action Plan will be studied so that there is no overlap. Furthermore, there are a number of ways to prevent TIP that need to be further explored by ASEAN sectoral bodies outside of law enforcement, including by expanding the roles of community members, parents, and survivors of TIP.
We thank AICHR Indonesia for organizing this Consultation. We also recognize the work of AICHR Vietnam to recognize the importance of various means of communication and languages to promote human-rights based approach and the work of AICHR Cambodia to facilitate dialog on developing national action plans on anti TIP. (*)