The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has urged Moldova to guarantee access to justice for victims of trafficking in human beings by ensuring that they receive specialized assistance and free legal aid at an early stage, information about their right to compensation, and protection from intimidation during or after investigations and court proceedings.
In a report published today, GRETA assesses the progress made by the country in the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings since 2016 – when it did its previous evaluation – with a particular focus on access to justice and effective remedies.
The legal framework for combating human trafficking in Moldova has been further developed to align its provisions with the convention. The Criminal Code has been amended to introduce additional forms of exploitation and means for committing the offense of human trafficking, and a law on the rehabilitation of victims of crime establishing minimum support services for victims of crime, including human trafficking, came into force in 2018.
The report identifies a number of shortcomings that should be addressed. Although under Moldovan legislation victims are entitled to legal assistance and free legal aid, in practice, they are largely dependent on NGOs for their provision. Further, there are a number of barriers preventing victims from effective access to compensation from perpetrators, including difficulties in enforcing compensation orders.
The new law on the rehabilitation of victims of crime foresees the setting up of a state compensation scheme, which is not yet operational. The report contains a number of recommendations to facilitate and guarantee access to compensation for victims of trafficking, including by collecting evidence about the harm the victims have suffered and the financial gain from their exploitation, making full use of the legislation on the freezing and forfeiture of criminal assets, and reviewing the legislative framework for state compensation.
GRETA expresses concern about the negative effects of lengthy trials on victims and the outcome of the prosecution. According to the report, the Moldovan authorities should take additional measures to ensure that human trafficking cases are investigated promptly, prosecuted successfully, and lead to effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions. In addition, the authorities should take steps to prevent victims of trafficking from being intimidated during the investigation and court proceedings, especially through the practice of cross-examination of victims and defendants.
The report also examines the progress made by Moldova in implementing earlier GRETA recommendations. Whilst welcoming the efforts undertaken to combat trafficking for labor exploitation, GRETA urges the authorities to increase the number of labor inspectors and to enable them to play a frontline role in preventing and identifying human trafficking cases.
The report notes that assistance to victims continues to depend on the financial support of international organizations, and there is a lack of proper infrastructure to assist male victims of trafficking. GRETA calls on the authorities to provide adequate funding to the centers for assistance and protection of victims of human trafficking and to ensure that all victims of trafficking are guaranteed effective access to public health care.
Trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation has emerged as the main form of exploitation in Moldova, accounting for 66% of all victims in 2019, followed by the trafficking of sexual exploitation. According to official statistics, 1,496 persons were identified as victims of trafficking in Moldova from 2015 to 2019. 47% of them were female and 21% were children. The main country of destination of Moldovan victims was the Russian Federation, followed by the Slovak Republic, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Turkey. One-quarter of the victims were trafficked within the Republic of Moldova.
The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) is an independent body that monitors the way countries implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. So far, 46 of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe are bound by the Convention, as well as Belarus, a non-member state.