Put down the gavel
October 13, 2012
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Human trafficking has grown to be a major source of global income. Minimizing the cost of labor while maximizing its profits, human trafficking entails the sale, consummation, and exploitation of the following “reusable” products: human bodies, personhood, and dignity. This industry comes in many brands, including but not limited to sex trafficking/sex slavery, forced/bonded labor, debt bondage, and using child soldiers. Because the cost of this kind of labor is so little, and the criminal penalties for its exercise are often nonexistent, it is no wonder that human trafficking is a flourishing, business endeavor across today’s world–whether it be in what we call a developed country, such as the United States, or one still under development, such as India.
I came across a post on Columbia Law School’s blog highlighting the ICC’s questionable association with prosecuting cases of human trafficking. I further delved into this post, reading a detailed paper written by a student from Columbia’s law school, of which an excerpt reads that “allegations of human trafficking have not yet been brought to the ICC, nor have they appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).” The rest of this paper goes on to examine the potential of the ICC in prosecuting human trafficking as a crime against humanity and the challenges associated with this endeavor.
It is mostly true that trafficking cases are often overshadowed by crimes pertaining to the individual/individual responsibility, and that the time and effort needed to fight these trafficking cases–inextricable from cultural, social, and religious boundaries–are not often available. Though with a unit of justice in place, such as the ICC, why does it seem as if the urgency of these cases is being undermined? Why isn’t there yet an international definition for “trafficking of persons” or “slavery” in our modern-day context? Is the inability to prosecute human trafficking as a crime against humanity attributed to the the lack of these definitions, or is it attributed to the difficulty (and sometimes impossibility) of rising above regional/cultural “norms” set in place over time?
Irrespective of the reasons, the bare bones is that human trafficking entails profiting from a cyclical supply of the vulnerable. It may be a sign of progress that the Rome Statute now recognizes human trafficking as a crime, though it would be a crime on the ICC’s part to withhold its gavel on such cases for much longer.