UN warns of ‘horrific’ human trafficking

Yazidi women who fled the violence in Iraq take shelter in the city of Dohuk. The Yazidis are a small community which has been often targeted by militants in the region. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2019

UN warns of ‘horrific’ human trafficking

  • Militants in conflict zones using brutal tactics as weapons of war: UN report
  • The sexual enslavement of Yazidi women by Daesh in Iraq and Syria, have grabbed headlines and sparked global anger in recent years

NEW YORK: Human trafficking is becoming more “horrific” in conflict zones, where armed groups keep women as sex slaves and use child soldiers to spread fear, the UN said on Monday, warning of widespread impunity.

From girls forced to wed to boys made to cook and clean, militants are using trafficking as a tool to boost their control in areas where the rule of law is weak, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report.

The use of children as soldiers and suicide bombers in nations such as Colombia and Nigeria, and the sexual enslavement of Yazidi women by Daesh in Iraq and Syria, have grabbed headlines and sparked global anger in recent years.

Yet police and prosecutors are often not equipped to deal with the recruitment and exploitation of children by extremist groups — while global convictions of traffickers remain very low — according to the UNODC’s annual report on human trafficking.

“Trafficking is found in connection with most armed conflicts,” said Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UNODC. “In situations characterized by violence, brutality and coercion, traffickers can operate with even greater impunity.”

“Child soldiers, forced labor, sexual slavery — human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters,” he said in a statement.

Fedotov said the award of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Nadia Murad — a former Daesh sex slave turned Yazidi activist and UN ambassador — was an “important recognition” and urged the world to stop the use of rape as a weapon of war.

The UNODC’s report said that while countries are finding more victims — mostly women trafficked for sex — and convicting more traffickers, the total number of convictions remained very low in many nations — especially in Africa and the Middle East.

“In some countries ... there appears to be hardly any risk for traffickers to face justice,” the report said.

About 40 million people worldwide are living as slaves — trapped in forced labor or forced marriages — according to a landmark estimate by Australian rights group the Walk Free Foundation and the UN International Labour Organization (ILO).

Yet campaigners say more and better data is needed to track progress in pursuit of a UN target of ending modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030 as many victims around the world — including child soldiers — are going uncounted.

“Sound information and a solid base of evidence for our policies are two of the most important things to fight this disgusting crime in the most efficient way possible,” Karin Kneissl, Austria’s foreign minister, said at the report launch.

“We simply need to know what it actually is we are dealing with,” she added.


Bahrain to join US-led efforts to protect Gulf navigation

Updated 14 min 47 sec ago

Bahrain to join US-led efforts to protect Gulf navigation

  • Bahrain’s King Hamad voiced his appreciation of the US role in supporting 'regional security and stability'
  • US is seeking coalition to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf

DUBAI: Bahrain said Monday it would join US-led efforts to protect shipping in the Arabian Gulf amid tensions between Washington and Tehran after a series of attacks on tankers.
Bahrain’s King Hamad voiced his country’s appreciation of the “US role in supporting regional security and stability” during a meeting with US Central Command (CENTCOM) chief General Kenneth McKenzie, state media said.
“The king confirmed the kingdom of Bahrain’s participation in the joint effort to preserve the safety of international maritime navigation and secure international corridors for trade and energy,” the official Bahrain News Agency reported.
The US has been seeking to form a coalition to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.
Britain, which already has warships on protection duty in the Gulf after a UK-flagged tanker was seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, has said it will join the planned operation.
But other European countries have declined to join, for fear of harming European efforts to rescue a 2015 treaty with Iran over its nuclear program.
Bahrain, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet, said last month that it would co-host a conference with the US on “maritime and air navigation security,” set for October.
Iran has seized three tankers in strategic Gulf waters since last month, including a British-flagged vessel.
That came after British Royal Marines helped impound a tanker carrying Iranian oil off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on July 4.
Britain suspected it was destined for Syria in defiance of European Union sanctions, which Iran denies.
The US and its Gulf allies have also accused the Islamic republic of carrying out several mysterious attacks on ships in the region, which Tehran denies.