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Contribution of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Professor Tomoya Obokata Geneva, March 2021

Contribution of the Sovereign Order of Malta  to the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Professor Tomoya Obokata Geneva, March 2021

Con­tri­bu­tion of the Sov­er­eign Order of Malta
to the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Con­tem­po­rary Forms of Slav­ery, Pro­fes­sor Tomoya Oboka­ta Gene­va, March 2021 

The Sov­er­eign Order of Mal­ta assists dis­placed per­sons around the world, includ­ing chil­dren, through social ser­vices by its nation­al Asso­ci­a­tions or through human­i­tar­i­an aid car­ried out by its Asso­ci­a­tions and its world­wide human­i­tar­i­an orga­ni­za­tion, Mal­teser Inter­na­tion­al. The Order of Mal­ta col­lab­o­rates with Gov­ern­ments, inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions such as the Office of the High Com­mis­sion­er for Human Rights, UNODC, IOM, region­al orga­ni­za­tions, uni­ver­si­ties, foun­da­tions and reli­gious con­gre­ga­tions in its fight against con­tem­po­rary forms of slav­ery. The Order of Mal­ta would like to high­light the val­ue of the con­crete action of many reli­gious con­gre­ga­tions in the pro­tec­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion of vic­tims of con­tem­po­rary forms of slavery.


In order to bet­ter pro­tect dis­placed per­sons from con­tem­po­rary forms of slav­ery, the Order of Mal­ta stress­es the impor­tance for all par­ties involved to respect the fol­low­ing rel­e­vant inter­na­tion­al legal instruments:


  1. Human Rights:

    1. Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights (1948), Arti­cle 4 pro­hibits slav­ery and servi­tude, and the two Covenants of 1966, in par­tic­u­lar Arti­cle 8 of the Covenant on Civ­il and Polit­i­cal Rights.

    1.2 Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Human Rights (1950, amend­ed in 2010),
    Arti­cle 4 pro­hibits slav­ery and forced labor.
    Note the case law of the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights on this subject:
    Sil­iadin v. France, appli­ca­tion no. 73316/01, judg­ment of July 26, 2005, paras. 89 and 112; Rant­sev v. Cyprus and Rus­sia, appli­ca­tion no. 25965/04, judg­ment of Jan­u­ary 7, 2010, paras. 285 and 288; J. and oth­ers v. Aus­tria, appli­ca­tion no. 58216/12, judg­ment of Jan­u­ary 17, 2017, para. 107; Chow­dury and oth­ers v. Greece (March 30, 2017).

    1.3 Amer­i­can Con­ven­tion on Human Rights (1969),
    Arti­cle 6 pro­hibits slav­ery, servi­tude and forced labor. Note the rul­ing of the
    Inter-Amer­i­can Court of Human Rights, Tra­ba­jadores Hacien­da Brasil Verde vs Brasil, judg­ment of Octo­ber 20, 2016, Series C, No. 318, para. 319.
    With­in the frame­work of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS), the Meet­ings of Min­is­ters of Jus­tice and Oth­er Min­is­ters or Attor­neys Gen­er­al of the Amer­i­c­as (REMJA) have rec­om­mend­ed, in view of the fact that traf­fick­ing in per­sons con­sti­tutes a seri­ous crime that must be qual­i­fied, pre­vent­ed, and com­bat­ed by all States and whose vic­tims are in a con­di­tion of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that requires greater atten­tion at the inter­na­tion­al lev­el as well as the nec­es­sary assis­tance and pro­tec­tion, that this issue be kept as a per­ma­nent item on the agen­da of its meetings.

1.4. African Char­ter on Human and Peo­ples’ Rights (1981),
Arti­cle 5 pro­hibits “all forms of exploita­tion and degra­da­tion of man, in par­tic­u­lar slav­ery, traf­fic in per­sons, phys­i­cal or moral tor­ture, and
cru­el, inhu­man or degrad­ing treat­ment or punishment”. 

See the deci­sion of the Court of Jus­tice of the Eco­nom­ic Com­mu­ni­ty of West African States (ECOWAS) in the case of Hadi­ja­tou Mani Koraou v. Niger (27 Octo­ber 2008)

1.5. 2004 Arab Char­ter on Human Rights. See Arti­cles 9 and 10.

1.6. ASEAN Human Rights Dec­la­ra­tion, adopt­ed 2012, Arti­cle 13 pro­hibits slav­ery, human traf­fick­ing and organ traf­fick­ing.


  1. Rights of the child:

    1. Inter­na­tion­al­Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child (CRC) of 1989 and its two Option­al Pro­to­cols of 2000, one on the involve­ment of chil­dren in armed con­flict, the oth­er on the sale of chil­dren, child pros­ti­tu­tion and child pornog­ra­phy.
    2.2. Coun­cil of Europe Con­ven­tion on the Pro­tec­tion of Chil­dren against Sex­u­al Exploita­tion and Sex­u­al Abuse of 25 Octo­ber 2007 (“Lan­zarote Convention”).
    2.4. Coun­cil of Europe Con­ven­tion on Cyber­crime, Novem­ber 23, 2001 (“Budapest Con­ven­tion”). This is the first inter­na­tion­al treaty on crim­i­nal offences com­mit­ted via the Inter­net and oth­er com­put­er net­works, in par­tic­u­lar child pornog­ra­phy (Arti­cle 9).

  2. Wom­en’s rights

    1. 1979 Con­ven­tion on the Elim­i­na­tion of All Forms of Dis­crim­i­na­tion against Women and its 1999 Option­al Pro­to­col estab­lish­ing the Com­mit­tee on the Elim­i­na­tion of Dis­crim­i­na­tion against Women.
    3.2. 1994 Inter-Amer­i­can Con­ven­tion on the Pre­ven­tion, Pun­ish­ment, and Erad­i­ca­tion of Vio­lence against Women (Con­ven­tion of Belém do Para).
    3.3. 2003 Pro­to­col to the African Char­ter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. See Art. 4, 2, g: “pre­vent and con­demn traf­fick­ing in women, pros­e­cute the per­pe­tra­tors of such traf­fick­ing and pro­tect those women most at risk”.
    3.4. See the ILO ABC of women work­ers’ rights and gen­der equal­i­ty. Sec­ond ed. 2007
    and the fol­low­ing ILO Conventions:
    1951 Equal Remu­ner­a­tion Con­ven­tion (No. 100),
    1952 Social Secu­ri­ty (Min­i­mum Stan­dards) Con­vention (C102),
    1958 Dis­crim­i­na­tion (Employ­ment and Occu­pa­tion) Con­ven­tion (C111),
    1962 Equal­i­ty of Treat­ment (Social Secu­ri­ty) Con­ven­tion (C118),
    1981 Work­ers with Fam­i­ly Respon­si­bil­i­ties Con­ven­tion (C156),
    2000 Mater­ni­ty Pro­tec­tion Con­ven­tion (C183).
    3.5. 2017 “Train­ing Man­u­al for Judges and Pros­e­cu­tors on Ensur­ing Women’s Access to Jus­tice”pub­lished by the Part­ner­ship for Good Gov­er­nance (Euro­pean Union and Coun­cil of Europe).
  3. Inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an law applic­a­ble in armed con­flict:

    1 In all sit­u­a­tions of armed con­flict, the fun­da­men­tal guar­an­tees of Arti­cle 3 com­mon to the four Gene­va Con­ven­tions of 1949 are applic­a­ble to “all per­sons not tak­ing a direct part in hostilities”.

    4.2. Arti­cle 27 of the Fourth Gene­va Con­ven­tion of 1949, rel­a­tive to the Pro­tec­tion of Civil­ian Per­sons in Time of War, pro­claims respect for the human per­son and the inalien­able char­ac­ter of fun­da­men­tal rights.

    4.3. Arti­cle 1 com­mon to the four 1949 Con­ven­tions, the States Par­ties “under­take to respect and to ensure respect for the present Con­ven­tion in all cir­cum­stances”.

    4.4. Arti­cles 75 (“Fun­da­men­tal guar­an­tees”), 76 (“Pro­tec­tion of women”), 77 (“Pro­tec­tion of chil­dren”) and 78 (“Evac­u­a­tion of chil­dren”) of the Pro­to­col Addi­tion­al to the Gene­va Con­ven­tions of 12 August 1949, and relat­ing to the Pro­tec­tion of Vic­tims of Inter­na­tion­al Armed Con­flicts (Pro­to­col I), of 8 June 1977

    4. 5. Pro­to­col Addi­tion­al to the Gene­va Con­ven­tions of 12 August 1949, and relat­ing to the Pro­tec­tion of Vic­tims of Non-Inter­na­tion­al Armed Con­flicts (Pro­to­col II), 8 June 1977, in its Arti­cle 4 (“Fun­da­men­tal Safe­guards”), num­ber 2, let­ter e, pro­hibits, at any time and in any place, slav­ery and the slave trade in all their forms against all per­sons who are not or are no longer tak­ing part in the hos­til­i­ties, whether they are deprived of their lib­er­ty or not”.

    4.6. Accord­ing to the ICRC Data­base of Cus­tom­ary Inter­na­tion­al Human­i­tar­i­an Law, Rules 93 (“Rape and Oth­er Forms of Sex­u­al Vio­lence”), 94 (“Slav­ery and the Slave Trade”), 95 (“Forced Labour”), 136 (“Recruit­ment of Child Sol­diers”), and 137 (“Par­tic­i­pa­tion of Child Sol­diers in Hos­til­i­ties”) are norms of cus­tom­ary inter­na­tion­al law applic­a­ble in all armed conflicts.

  4. Inter­na­tion­al refugee law:

    1. 1951 Con­ven­tion Relat­ing to the Sta­tus of Refugees and the 1967 Pro­to­col.
    See the Guide­lines on Inter­na­tion­al Pro­tec­tion No. 7: The Appli­ca­tion of Arti­cle 1A(2) of the 1951 Con­ven­tion and/or 1967 Pro­to­col Relat­ing to the Sta­tus of Refugees to Vic­tims of Traf­fick­ing and Per­sons at Risk of Being Traf­ficked (2006).
    The Office of the Unit­ed Nations High Com­mis­sion­er for Refugees (UNHCR) has a role to play in pre­vent­ing asy­lum seek­ers, refugees , includ­ing chil­dren, and oth­er per­sons in need of inter­na­tion­al pro­tec­tion, inter­nal­ly dis­placed per­sons or state­less per­sons from falling vic­tim to human traf­fick­ing or in pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion and assis­tance to those at risk of becom­ing vic­tims, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with sev­er­al orga­ni­za­tions — includ­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Migra­tion (IOM). In 2020, UNHCR and IOM pub­lished an updat­ed Joint Frame­work on Devel­op­ing Stan­dard Oper­at­ing Pro­ce­dures for the Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Vic­tims of Traf­fick­ing. Among oth­er ini­tia­tives, UNHCR co-leads the Task Team on Anti-Traf­fick­ing Glob­al Pro­tec­tion Clus­ter togeth­er with IOM and the Heart­land Alliance. The team is tasked with devel­op­ing glob­al guid­ance and capac­i­ty build­ing on prac­ti­cal mea­sures need­ed to address traf­fick­ing in per­sons in sit­u­a­tions of inter­nal dis­place­ment through the clus­ter response. The Inter-Agency Coor­di­na­tion Group against Traf­fick­ing (ICAT)
    is a pol­i­cy forum man­dat­ed by the U.N. Gen­er­al Assem­bly to improve inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion and coher­ence in approach­es to traf­fick­ing in per­sons. See the ICAT Toolk­it on Eval­u­at­ing Counter Traf­fick­ing Pro­grams. Har­ness­ing accu­mu­lat­ed knowl­edge to respond to traf­fick­ing in per­sons.

    5.2. 1969 OAU Con­ven­tion Gov­ern­ing the Spe­cif­ic Aspects of Refugee Prob­lems in Africa 

    5.3. 1984 Carta­ge­na Dec­la­ra­tion on Refugees (“Declaración de Carta­ge­na sobre los refu­gia­dos”), adopt­ed at the Col­lo­qui­um on the Inter­na­tion­al Pro­tec­tion of Refugees in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, Mex­i­co and Pana­ma, Carta­ge­na de Indias, Colombia.

  5. Unit­ed Nations Con­ven­tions on State­less­ness

    1. 1954 — Con­ven­tion relat­ing to the Sta­tus of State­less Persons
    6.2. 1961 — Con­ven­tion on the Reduc­tion of Statelessness
  6. Inter­nal­ly dis­placed per­sons

    1. 1998 Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples on Inter­nal Displacement

    7.2. 2009 African Union Con­ven­tion for the Pro­tec­tion and Assis­tance of Inter­nal­ly Dis­placed Per­sons in Africa - Kam­pala Con­ven­tion. The only inter­na­tion­al treaty explic­it­ly pro­tect­ing IDPs.
  7. Inter­na­tion­al Labor Orga­ni­za­tion (ILO) Con­ven­tions on Forced Labor

    1. The Forced Labour Con­ven­tion, 1930 (No. 29)
    8.2. The Abo­li­tion of Forced Labor Con­ven­tion, 1957 (No. 105)

8.3. The 2014 Pro­to­col to the Forced Labour Con­ven­tion, 1930

8.4. The Worst Forms of Child Labor Con­ven­tion, 1999 (No. 182)
8.5. The Domes­tic Work­ers Con­ven­tion, 2011 (No. 189)
The ILO, in coop­er­a­tion with the OECD, IOM, and UNICEF, under the umbrel­la of Alliance 8.7, has pub­lished an excel­lent 2019 Report “End­ing Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Traf­fick­ing in Glob­al Sup­ply Chains.”
See the ILO “Judges, pros­e­cu­tors and legal aid prac­ti­tion­ers’ train­ing on forced labor. Facilitator’s guide” (2019).


  1. Inter­na­tion­al instru­ments against human traf­fick­ing

    1. 1949 UN Con­ven­tion for the Sup­pres­sion of the Traf­fic in Per­sons and of the Exploita­tion of the Pros­ti­tu­tion of Others 

    9.2. 2000 Pro­to­col to Pre­vent, Sup­press and Pun­ish Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons, Espe­cial­ly Women and Chil­dren, sup­ple­ment­ing the Unit­ed Nations Con­ven­tion against Transna­tion­al Orga­nized Crime (Paler­mo Pro­to­col).
    See the excel­lent UNODC Report. Female Vic­tims of Traf­fick­ing for Sex­u­al Exploita­tion as Defen­dants. A Case Law Analy­sis. 124 p.

    9.3. 2005 Coun­cil of Europe Con­ven­tion on Action against Traf­fick­ing in Human Beings (CETS 197)

    9.4. 2008 Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on the Adop­tion of Chil­dren (revised) (CETS 202).

    9.5. 2011 Directive2011/36/EU of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and of the Coun­cil on pre­vent­ing and com­bat­ing traf­fick­ing in human beings and pro­tect­ing its victims.

    9.6. 2015 Coun­cil of Europe Con­ven­tion against Traf­fick­ing in Human Organs,
    (CETS 216, San­ti­a­go de Com­postela Convention).
    Let us also empha­size the role and respon­si­bil­i­ty of doc­tors to avoid a mer­chan­diza­tion of the human body.

    9.7. ASEAN Con­ven­tion Against Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons, Espe­cial­ly Women and Chil­dren”, of 22 Novem­ber 2015. See the ASEAN Plan of Action.

  2. Inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal law instru­ments against slav­ery

    1. 1998 Statute of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court:

    Art. 7, 1, g: slav­ery as a crime against human­i­ty;
    Art. 8, 2, b, xxii: sex­u­al slav­ery, forced pros­ti­tu­tion as war crimes;
    Art. 8, 2, c, vi: rape, sex­u­al slav­ery, forced pros­ti­tu­tion as a grave breach of Arti­cle 3 com­mon to the four Gene­va Con­ven­tions of 1949;
    Art. 8, 2, c, vii: con­script­ing or enlist­ing chil­dren under the age of 15 years into the armed forces or armed groups or using them to par­tic­i­pate active­ly in hostilities.

    10.2. 1993 Statute of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for the for­mer Yugoslavia (Art. 2 “Graves breach­es of the Gene­va Con­ven­tions of 1949”; 5, c) “Enslave­ment”)

    10.3. 1994 Statute of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for Rwanda 
    (“Crimes against human­i­ty”: Art. 3, c) and “Vio­la­tions of Arti­cle 3 com­mon to the Gene­va Con­ven­tions and Addi­tion­al Pro­to­col II”: Art. 4, espe­cial­ly e) “enforced prostitution”).

  3. The pro­hi­bi­tion of slav­ery has a cus­tom­ary, imper­a­tive char­ac­ter

    The Inter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice, in the Barcelona Trac­tion case (1970), not­ed the erga omnes char­ac­ter, bind­ing on all States and requir­ing their coop­er­a­tion in imple­men­ta­tion (Barcelona Trac­tion, Light and Pow­er Com­pa­ny, Lim­it­ed (Bel­gium v. Spain), Judg­ment, I.C.J. Reports 1970, p. 3 (paras. 33 and 34).

    12. Slav­ery con­tributes to nation­al, region­al and inter­na­tion­al insecurity:

    The UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, in a State­ment by the Pres­i­dent of the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil of 16 Decem­ber 2015 — S/PRST/2015/25),notes that “traf­fick­ing in per­sons under­mines the rule of law and fos­ters oth­er forms of transna­tion­al orga­nized crime, which can exac­er­bate con­flict and fos­ter inse­cu­ri­ty.Also note­wor­thy are sev­er­al Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions: 2242(2015); 2331(2016); 2388 (2017), 2437 (2018), 2491 (2019), 2546 (2020).

    12. The com­plex­i­ty of inter­na­tion­al stan­dards, as well as the small num­ber of cas­es pros­e­cut­ed in the courts, demon­strates the need to move beyond crim­i­nal­iza­tion: a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary glob­al mobi­liza­tion of a wide range of stake­hold­ers is need­ed for the effec­tive erad­i­ca­tion of this 21st cen­tu­ry scourge.

    Two inter­na­tion­al coali­tions led, respec­tive­ly in 1997 and 1998, to the adop­tion of the Ottawa Con­ven­tion and the Statute of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court in Rome. It is a sim­i­lar coali­tion of States, inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, human­i­tar­i­an orga­ni­za­tions, NGOs and pub­lic fig­ures that should lead to an aware­ness of the val­ue of these instru­ments of inter­na­tion­al law against all forms of con­tem­po­rary slav­ery and the urgent need to imple­ment them.

    13. A repli­ca­tion of the suc­cess­es of the envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion move­ment by the con­tem­po­rary anti-slav­ery move­ment, or even an alliance between the two, could cre­ate pow­er­ful syn­er­gies, includ­ing get­ting Gov­ern­ments to crack down more effec­tive­ly on con­tem­po­rary forms of slav­ery and get­ting the pri­vate sec­tor to keep a close eye on its sup­ply chains to ensure that they are free of slave labor.

    14. The link between the pro­tec­tion of the life and dig­ni­ty of every human being and the pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment
    should be empha­sized: it is too often through forced labor that the most seri­ous destruc­tion of the envi­ron­ment take place. It is an approach of an inte­gral ecol­o­gy, which does not exclude the human being, which incor­po­rates the val­ue of human work, that the Order of Mal­ta advo­cates, in the spir­it of the Encycli­cals “Laborem Exercens” (1981), “Sol­lic­i­tu­do Rei Socialis” (1987), “Cen­tes­imus Annus” (1991), “Laudatosi’ ” (2015) and “Fratel­li Tut­ti” (2020).

    15. The con­tri­bu­tion of the dif­fer­ent reli­gions to the erad­i­ca­tion of slav­ery deserves to be not­ed: it is done main­ly at two levels:

    - through appeals by lead­ers, such as the “Joint Dec­la­ra­tion of Reli­gious Lead­ers against Mod­ern Slav­ery”, of Decem­ber 2, 2014, where, for the first time in his­to­ry, lead­ers of the Catholic, Angli­can and Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ties, as well as Bud­dhist, Hin­du, Jew­ish and Mus­lim, joint­ly com­mit them­selves to a com­mon fight against slav­ery; and the Doc­u­ment on Human Fra­ter­ni­ty for World Peace and Liv­ing Togeth­er (Abu-Dhabi, Feb­ru­ary 2019):
    “Faith leads a believ­er to see in the oth­er a broth­er or sis­ter to be sup­port­ed and loved. Through faith in God, who has cre­at­ed the uni­verse, crea­tures and all human beings (equal on account of his mer­cy), believ­ers are called to express this human fra­ter­ni­ty by safe­guard­ing cre­ation and the entire uni­verse and sup­port­ing all per­sons, espe­cial­ly the poor­est and those most in need”.

- through con­crete actions on the ground to iden­ti­fy, raise aware­ness, pro­tect, reha­bil­i­tate and rein­te­grate the vic­tims of con­tem­po­rary slavery.

16. This erad­i­ca­tion of con­tem­po­rary slav­ery
will require stronger imple­ment­ing laws, more court deci­sions, and nation­al plans. It will be facil­i­tat­ed by effec­tive pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns, inter­dis­ci­pli­nary sym­po­siums, train­ing of judges, lawyers, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, police and bor­der con­trol agents, mil­i­tary, med­ical per­son­nel, tourism per­son­nel, reli­gious lead­ers. There are many actors who need to work togeth­er in for­mal and infor­mal ways: dif­fer­ent parts of pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion, dif­fer­ent parts of civ­il soci­ety: police, judges, jour­nal­ists, uni­ver­si­ties and libraries, asso­ci­a­tions and foun­da­tions con­tribut­ing to the con­trol of mali­cious inter­net sites, sup­ply chains, and finan­cial trans­fers. In the face of pow­er­ful and well-orga­nized transna­tion­al crim­i­nal net­works, gen­er­at­ing illic­it prof­its amount­ing to 150 bil­lion dol­lars annu­al­ly, Gov­ern­ments, inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions and civ­il soci­ety must work togeth­er in con­crete ways.

The Sov­er­eign Order of Mal­ta has for sev­er­al years spo­ken out through its high­est offi­cials (Grand Mas­ter, Grand Chan­cel­lor, Grand Hos­pi­taller) against con­tem­po­rary slav­ery. It looks for­ward to con­tin­ue its col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur and with all stake­hold­ers, in action and in law.
















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