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Eurojust Report on Trafficking in Human Beings — Best practice and issues in judicial cooperation

Eurojust Report on Trafficking in Human Beings — Best practice and issues in judicial cooperation
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Exec­u­tive summary

Cross-bor­der cas­es of traf­fick­ing in human beings (THB) are com­plex and dif­fi­cult to inves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute. They reveal the promi­nent role of organ­ised crim­i­nal groups. When gaps in judi­cial coop­er­a­tion appear it is the vic­tims of THB who suf­fer. In Octo­ber 2020, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion not­ed in its progress report on THB that judi­cial author­i­ties in the Mem­ber States had raised seri­ous con­cerns about dif­fi­cul­ties in judi­cial coop­er­a­tion. This report was pre­pared by the Euro­pean Union Agency for Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Coop­er­a­tion (Euro­just), with the aim of respond­ing to these con­cerns. It presents solu­tions used by the agency when assist­ing in com­plex THB cas­es requir­ing judi­cial coor­di­na­tion. The report also aims to inform the forth­com­ing EU strat­e­gy against THB. It express­es Eurojust’s readi­ness to play a cen­tral role in the future strat­e­gy, by bring­ing sub­stan­tial added val­ue to the oper­a­tional dimen­sion of com­bat­ing THB. The final aim of the report is to assist in suc­cess­ful­ly bring­ing human traf­fick­ers to jus­tice, while pro­tect­ing the vic­tims. The report is divid­ed into two main parts. The first part relates to the coor­di­na­tion of inves­ti­ga­tions and the sec­ond to vic­tims’ rights.

The report draws on the prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence gained from Eurojust’s sup­port of human traf­fick­ing inves­ti­ga­tions between 2017 and 2020. In total, 91 cas­es of THB were select­ed for analy­sis by Eurojust’s anti-traf­fick­ing team, of which 31 are illus­trat­ed in this report. Each case high­lights the diverse legal and prac­ti­cal prob­lems faced and pro­vides exam­ples of good prac­tice, fol­lowed by tar­get­ed rec­om­men­da­tions. In total, 18 rec­om­men­da­tions are made, which sup­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions pro­vid­ed in pre­vi­ous Euro­just reports on THB. These rec­om­men­da­tions are main­ly aimed at pros­e­cu­tors, judges and law enforce­ment authorities.

1. There should be ear­ly coop­er­a­tion and coor­di­na­tion between all coun­tries and all actors involved, as part of the oblig­a­tion to respect the rights of all vic­tims of human trafficking.

2. Before bring­ing a THB case to Euro­just, infor­ma­tion should first be exchanged at the police lev­el and data cross-checked against the Euro­pean Union Agency for Law Enforce­ment Cooperation’s (Europol) data­bas­es. This helps to iden­ti­fy links with oth­er coun­tries, ini­ti­ate crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings in those coun­tries, and iden­ti­fy sus­pects, vic­tims and their loca­tions, before deal­ing with judi­cial coop­er­a­tion issues.

3. When­ev­er nation­al author­i­ties share rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion with Europol, the sup­port from Europol should go hand in hand with the involve­ment of Euro­just; in some cas­es, Euro­just may even facil­i­tate the first exchange with Europol, depend­ing on the nation­al law enforce­ment sys­tem involved. As soon as Europol receives infor­ma­tion on a THB case, Euro­just can help to ini­ti­ate judi­cial pro­ceed­ings, which rep­re­sent the best ‘umbrel­la’ from a legal point of view under which to also begin vic­tim pro­tec­tion procedures.

4. Cross-bor­der THB inves­ti­ga­tions should be brought to Euro­just to iden­ti­fy whether par­al­lel crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings are tak­ing place in oth­er coun­tries in the EU and beyond. Euro­just can pro­vide assis­tance with the coor­di­na­tion of such pro­ceed­ings or the pro­ceed­ings can be trig­gered with Eurojust’s support.

5. Once an active crim­i­nal group is dis­cov­ered, all coun­tries involved should react and com­mit to active­ly con­tribut­ing to evi­dence gath­er­ing and the dis­man­tling of the group, prefer­ably by con­duct­ing inves­ti­ga­tions in each juris­dic­tion to iden­ti­fy the crim­i­nal facts com­mit­ted in each coun­try. If coop­er­a­tion is lim­it­ed to the issu­ing of Euro­pean Inves­ti­ga­tion Orders (EIOs), there is a risk of los­ing track of the per­pe­tra­tors and them escap­ing justice.

6. The suit­abil­i­ty of joint inves­ti­ga­tion teams (JITs) in com­plex THB cas­es that require close coor­di­na­tion or dif­fi­cult and demand­ing inves­ti­ga­tions with links to one or more coun­tries should always be dis­cussed. The use of JITs in THB cas­es allows dynam­ic and close col­lab­o­ra­tion, com­mon inves­tiga­tive goals to be estab­lished, and flex­i­bil­i­ty and speed in adjust­ing the inves­tiga­tive mea­sures as the cir­cum­stances around a case change. Sup­port from Euro­just for JITs is avail­able for all practitioners.

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7. Direct proac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion with­in the JIT should be estab­lished from the very begin­ning. One best prac­tice is the des­ig­na­tion of con­tact points for com­mu­ni­ca­tion with­in the JIT.

8. If it is envis­aged that evi­dence gath­ered in one coun­try in the frame­work of a JIT will be used in anoth­er coun­try, it is rec­om­mend­ed that the admis­si­bil­i­ty of the evi­dence is dis­cussed at Euro­just dur­ing a coor­di­na­tion meet­ing. It is very use­ful to include annex­es to JIT agree­ments con­tain­ing legal pro­vi­sions to gath­er evidence.

9. In THB cas­es involv­ing demand­ing and dif­fi­cult inves­ti­ga­tions, many vic­tims and large crim­i­nal groups, assis­tance could be request­ed from Eurojust’s Oper­a­tions Depart­ment for the analy­sis of infor­ma­tion and evi­dence gath­ered to iden­ti­fy pos­si­ble com­mon and/or con­tra­dic­to­ry ele­ments with­in the investigations.

10. All par­ties to a JIT should dis­cuss at the very begin­ning the cir­cum­stances under which the JIT will cease oper­at­ing, in accor­dance with their nation­al legal provisions.

11. Finan­cial inves­ti­ga­tions should be ini­ti­at­ed in view of confiscation.

12. THB cas­es that have links to third coun­tries could be referred to Euro­just for assistance.

13. In cas­es of pos­si­ble con­flicts of juris­dic­tion, Euro­just is able to assist nation­al author­i­ties using its tai­lor-made case notes and joint rec­om­men­da­tions for the trans­fer of proceedings.

14. When decid­ing which juris­dic­tion to pros­e­cute, the inter­ests and pro­tec­tion of vic­tims should be giv­en con­sid­er­able weight.

15. More use should be made of Eurojust’s coor­di­na­tion cen­tres in THB cas­es, to ben­e­fit from the coor­di­na­tion of joint actions in dif­fer­ent coun­tries (arrests, seizures and searches).

16. Judi­cial and law enforce­ment author­i­ties should always dis­cuss in advance, and take actions to ensure, the inter­ests and pro­tec­tion of THB vic­tims dur­ing and after joint action days. Euro­just is able to help with the prepa­ra­tion and organ­i­sa­tion of joint action days and pro­vide real-time coordination.

17. To bet­ter iden­ti­fy vic­tims, Europol and Euro­just should be involved at an ear­ly stage of inves­ti­ga­tions; adult web­sites should be active­ly mon­i­tored; infor­ma­tion on mon­ey flows should be request­ed to iden­ti­fy the names and loca­tions of poten­tial vic­tims; and pas­sen­ger name record (PNR) data on sus­pects and poten­tial vic­tims should be obtained. A greater focus on vic­tims leads to greater suc­cess in the pros­e­cu­tion of THB cases.

18. All par­ties to JITs should dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­i­ty of sec­ond­ing spe­cialised offi­cers to inter­view poten­tial vic­tims of traf­fick­ing and take into con­sid­er­a­tion the par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of child vic­tims of THB. In cas­es in which a JIT has not been set up, EIOs can be issued in accor­dance with Arti­cle 9(4) and (5) of EIO Direc­tive 2014/41/EU.

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