U.N. Crime Commission Seeks To Protect Children from Trafficking

By Jane Morse
USINFO Staff Writer

Vienna, Austria – Profits generated by human trafficking make the problem difficult to attack, but tough legislation, especially on child-sex tourism, can be effective, according to a U.S. official.

“According to the FBI, modern-day trafficking generates billions of dollars each year – much of it used to finance organized crime,” Ambassador Gregory Schulte said April 25 in Vienna, Austria.  He said that unlike drugs in the narcotics trade, human beings can be sold and resold again “until they are viewed as worthless by traffickers because of sickness, age or death.”

Schulte cited national and international legislative efforts to combat the problem. In 2003, he said, President Bush signed into law the PROTECT Act, which makes it a crime for any person to enter the United States, or for any citizen to travel abroad, for the purpose of sex tourism involving children.  Over the past four years, Schulte said, the U.S. Department of Justice has more than tripled the number of cases brought against sex-tour operators and patrons, who face up to 30 years in prison.

His comments, made at an event in conjunction with the 16th Session of the U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, also cited a resolution on “Effective Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses to Combat Sexual Exploitation of Children,” that the United States has introduced at the U.N. meeting. The resolution urges U.N. member states to criminalize all aspects of child sexual exploitation - sexually explicit images of children, child-sex tourism and the victimization of children through prostitution - so that perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable for their actions. The measure, he said, is receiving broad support. (See related article.)

Schulte, who serves as the permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations Office in Vienna spoke at a special event hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the U.S. Mission to International Organizations, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the OSCE and the Austrian Foreign Ministry.  The event is part of an ongoing effort to raise public awareness of human trafficking, particularly when children are the victims.

Experts from around the world have gathered in Vienna to seek ways to end the scourge of human trafficking and the exploitation of children. The weeklong U.N conference brought together hundreds of diplomats, judges, lawyers, police officers, criminal justice policy makers and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

In his introductory remarks at the special event, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa called child trafficking - which ensnares millions of children around the world for labor or sexual exploitation in slave-like conditions - “humanity at its worst.”

Costa said that 111 member states have ratified the U.N. protocol to ban human trafficking, but much work needs to be done to help governments implement the protocol.  He called on governments, schools, families and individuals to accept the fact that the exploitation of children is “simply unacceptable.”


Paul Almanza, deputy director of the Child Exploitation and Obscenities Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, said that any effort to help child victims of trafficking needs “two wings to fly.”

On the one hand, law enforcement and prosecutors must make the utmost efforts to catch traffickers and put them in prison, Almanza said.  But necessary as well, he said, are the “healers” for the victims.

Nongovernmental organizations, Almanza said, are critical in providing shelter and psychological aid to the victims.  “We must ensure that victims can recover,” he said. “It is critical for law enforcement to cooperate with NGOs.”

Erich Zwettler, head of the Organized Crime Department of Austria’s Federal Investigation Bureau, said that children brought to Austria for sexual exploitation also are used by their masters for other types of crime.  This is especially true of children trafficked in from Romania and Bulgaria, who, in addition to prostitution, engage in additional crimes, such as pickpocketing.

Zwettler emphasized that to control the problem, it is critical to have effective cooperation between law enforcement in both the receiving and sending countries for child prostitutes.  Social support is also critical, he said. “Parents often sell their children,” he said. “These children cannot be returned to their parents.”

“The children,” Zwettler observed, “do not consider the police to be their rescuers.  They fear punishment and being sent back to their home countries.”

For more information on U.S. policies, see Human Smuggling and Trafficking.