Thank you, Mr. President, and to Italy for their leadership on this matter. And certainly we want to thank all of our briefers for the very informative reports they gave. We want to say a special thank you to the Secretary-General for his strong condemnation of reports of African migrants being sold as slaves in Libya.
To see the pictures of these men being treated like cattle, and to hear the auctioneer describe them as, “big strong boys for farm work,” should shock the conscience of us all. There are few greater violations of human rights and human dignity than this.
There is no place in our world for slavery. The United States urges a full investigation of these appalling acts. The perpetrators who are responsible for these crimes must be held accountable.
This is literally why we are here today – to put a stop to this barbaric practice and other acts of exploitation of human beings.
Human trafficking is of concern to the United States because of its destructive impact on individuals. But it also has consequences beyond its immediate victims.
The United States was the first country to bring human trafficking in conflict to this Council’s agenda as an international peace and security issue in 2015. More recently, we have advocated treating far more human rights abuses and violations as peace and security issues. Human trafficking in conflict is a prime example of the kind of human rights abuses that threaten entire regions and the world.
Terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS use human trafficking to support their aggression, fueling a cycle of violence that leads to more vulnerable, displaced people who are then exploited by traffickers.
A young boy named Abdul was kidnapped by Boko Haram from his village in Nigeria when he was just 14 years old.
The terrorists trained him in the use of heavy weapons and forced him to carry out operations in which he killed 14 civilians. He was also forced to gather intelligence on government forces for Boko Haram.
And as far as we’ve seen, far too often kidnapped girls and women play a different but no less horrific role for these terrorist groups.
Amal was captured by ISIS in Libya along with a group of 71 other migrants. She testified that her captors separated the men from the women and the Christians from the Muslims. She was forced into sexual slavery and kept underground. She didn’t see the sun for nine months.
These are just two examples of many. Across sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, vast human displacement due to ongoing conflicts and dire economic need has resulted in rampant human trafficking.
Violence from both state and non-state actors has driven thousands across the region to Europe in search of a better life, exposing already vulnerable populations to human traffickers.
The children who are forced into these situations live in conditions that most of us are blessed not to be able to imagine. And for those who have escaped traffickers, the nightmare isn’t over. Their trauma continues long after the victimization ends. Many will never fully recover.
The United States continues to combat trafficking in persons by focusing our efforts on prevention, protection, and prosecution.
On prevention, we fund research to better understand the connection between conflict and vulnerability to human trafficking – especially in places most affected by the outflows of refugees from the Syrian civil war. We also support International Organization for Migration efforts to increase screening and victim identification and services among vulnerable populations.
On protection, the United States stresses the critical need to immediately identify trafficking victims in conflict situations and to see they are provided necessary protection and assistance. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, victims of trafficking by violent extremist groups like ISIS and the Taliban suffer from particularly severe trauma.
Not only is the United States fully committed to the complete defeat of these violent extremist groups, but we join you in complete commitment to helping those victims.
On prosecution, we appreciate your focus on accountability for human trafficking. In addition to the impressive efforts of our colleagues at the Department of Justice to bring perpetrators to justice, we have elevated our diplomatic engagement on this effort by highlighting prosecution throughout the Department of State’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons report.
We believe a victim-centered approach to investigation and prosecution of human trafficking is critical to overall success of law enforcement efforts. This includes commitments by states not to prosecute trafficking victims for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
We are also committed to partnering with governments in order to enhance their capacity to document human trafficking cases.
We welcome this Council’s unanimous call for an investigative mechanism in Iraq to document ISIS crimes, including their heinous practice of forcing women into sexual slavery.
And finally, we are encouraged by the Secretary-General’s focus on improved UN coordination on trafficking of persons in conflict, as expressed in his report.
As armed conflicts and trafficking in persons continue to converge and contribute to global peace and security challenges, the UN must also improve coordination to address this challenge.
We join the Secretary-General’s call for remaining Member States to become a party to the Transnational Organized Crime Convention and its Trafficking in Persons Protocol. This will be an important show of a unified international front against human trafficking.
We will continue to work with this Council and with partner governments to end this barbaric assault on human dignity.