UN chief: Human trafficking a problem in many conflict zones

December 20, 2016
FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2016, file photo, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the media in Juba, South Sudan. Ban warned Monday, Dec. 19, that South Sudan will be heading toward genocide unless immediate action is taken to impose an arms embargo and pressure leaders of the world's newest nation to end hate speech, incitement and violence. (AP Photo, File)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Tuesday on all countries to investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking and said the most vulnerable victims are women, children and refugees caught up in conflict areas around the globe.

Ban, addressing the 15-member Security Council during an open debate on human trafficking in conflict zones, said extremist groups from the Islamic State to Boko Haram and al-Shabab traffic in persons, especially women and girls, as a weapon of terror and source of revenue.

“We have to fight trafficking for the sake of the victims,” Ban said. “When we do, we will also decrease funding for terrorists — and make everyone safer.”

Ban, whose term as top U.N. official ends Dec. 31, spoke the same day the Security Council unanimously approved its first-ever draft resolution on human trafficking in conflict situations. The resolution seeks to strengthen the United Nation’s ability to counter the phenomenon and bolster the international community’s ability to respond to it.

Yuri Fedotov, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said the building blocks for fighting international human trafficking can be found in the United Nations’ Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on the practice, which was adopted by the General Assembly and went into effect in 2003.

He said trafficking victims have been detected in 106 different countries and territories worldwide. The good news, he said, is that 158 countries have criminalized most forms of the practice in line with the protocol.

“There’s no single measure, no one step to address this problem alone,” Fedotov said.

Ameena Saeed Hasan campaigns for international help for the thousands of Yazidi women and girls who have been taken into captivity by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.

Hasan told the council that the extremist group has abducted 6,500 Yazidi girls and women in the last 2 1/2 years.

“They are sold in slave markets, subject to sexual slavery. A girl of 12 years is sold for a pack of cigarettes,” she said. “We cannot remain silent to these horrible crimes.”

The Spain-sponsored draft resolution calls upon member states to do more to fight human trafficking, asking that countries that have not yet done so fully implement the U.N.’s trafficking in persons protocol as well as investigate and dismantle trafficking networks. It also calls on member nations to establish procedures to identify victims and provide protection and assistance for them.