BBC News Online – 2004-05-10 09:31:45
The presence of peacekeepers in Kosovo is fuelling the sexual exploitation of women and encouraging trafficking, according to Amnesty International. It claims UN and NATO troops in the region are using the trafficked women and girls for sex and some have been involved in trafficking itself.
Amnesty says girls as young as 11 from eastern European countries are being sold into the sex slavery.
A NATO spokesman said some details of the report seemed out of date. Lieutenant Colonel Jim Moran said some policies had changed. Peacekeepers were “not allowed” off base in civilian clothing or to go to bars and nightclubs, he said. “Each nation is responsible for the conduct of their soldiers, and if they find a soldier that is breaking the law, it is up to them to bring them to justice,” he added.
There has been no comment from the UN.
Amnesty’s report, entitled “So Does that Mean I Have Rights? Protecting the Human Rights of Women and Girls Trafficked for Forced Prostitution in Kosovo,” was published on Thursday.
It is based on interviews with women and girls who have been trafficked from countries such as Moldova, Bulgaria and the Ukraine to service Kosovo’s sex industry. Instead of getting a proper job the women and girls find themselves trapped, enslaved, forced into prostitution.
They are said to have been moved illegally across borders and sold in “trading houses,” where they are sometimes drugged and “broken in” before being sold from one trafficker to another for prices ranging from 50 to 3,500 euros ($60 – 4,200).
The report includes harrowing testimonies of abduction, deprivation of liberty and denial of freedom of movement, torture and ill-treatment, including psychological threats, beatings and rape.
The report condemns the role of the international peacekeepers. It says that after 40,000 K-For troops and hundreds of Unmik personnel were sent to Kosovo in 1999, a “small-scale local market for prostitution was transformed into a large-scale industry based on trafficking run by organised criminal networks”.
The number of places in Kosovo where trafficked women and girls may be exploited, such as nightclubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and cafes, has increased from 18 in 1999 to more than 200 in 2003.
The report claims international personnel make up about 20% of the people using trafficked women and girls even though its members comprise only 2% of Kosovo’s population.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“Women and girls as young as 11 are being sold into sexual slavery in Kosovo and international peacekeepers are not only failing to stop it they are actively fuelling this despicable trade by themselves paying for sex from trafficked women.
“It is time for countries to stop treating trafficking as a form of ‘illegal migration’ and see it as a particularly vicious form of human rights abuse.”
One woman told Amnesty International: “I was forced by the boss to serve international soldiers and police officers… I never had a chance of running away and leaving that miserable life, because I was observed every moment by a woman.”
Criminals and Pimps
Another told how German soldiers were instructed by their superiors not to go with prostitutes, but went anyway. “They told the pimp, that if someone would be coming, he should alert them,” she said. “After a while the pimp employed a guardian.”
Amnesty says that despite some positive measures by the authorities to combat trafficking, the women and girls are often still treated as criminals — prosecuted for being unlawfully in Kosovo, or charged with prostitution.
Amnesty International is calling on the Kosovo authorities, including Unmik, to:
• implement measures to end the trafficking of women and girls to, from and within Kosovo for forced prostitution
• ensure that measures are taken to protect the victims of trafficking
• ensure that those trafficked have a right to redress and reparation for the human rights abuses they have suffered
Amnesty says Unmik’s own figures show that by the end of 2003, 10 of their police officers had been dismissed or repatriated in connection with allegations related to trafficking.
In the year and half to July 2003 some 22-27 K-For troops were suspected of offences relating to trafficking, the report says. However, K-for troops and UN personnel are immune from prosecution in Kosovo and those who have been dismissed relating to such offences have escaped any criminal proceedings in their home countries.
Ms Allen added: “The international community in Kosovo is now adding insult to injury by securing immunity from prosecution for its personnel and apparently hushing up their shameful part in the abuse of trafficked women and girls.”
The organization called on the UN and NATO to implement measures to ensure that any personnel suspected of criminal offences associated with trafficking are brought to justice.