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UN chief calls for increased help in tackling human trafficking and war crimes

[JURIST] UN Secretary‑General António Guterres [official website] on Monday expressed grave concern [press release] about increases in human trafficking in an open UN Security Council (UNSC) [official website] debate in New York.

Guterres listed Da'esh, Boko Haram, Al‑Shabaab and the Lord's Resistance Army [BBC backgrounders] as some of the terrorist groups forcing women and children into de-humanizing servitude. Reminding UNSC of the disturbing images of African migrants being sold as “goods” in Libya, Guterres stated of these terrorist groups:

Their brutality knows no bounds: sexual exploitation, forced labour, the removal of bodily organs and slavery are the tools of their trade. It is our collective responsibility to stop these crimes. We must act urgently to protect the human rights and dignity of migrant populations. ... That means bringing the perpetrators to justice. It means immediately increasing humanitarian aid. And it means helping the Libyan authorities to strengthen their own capacity to protect and provide for vulnerable men, women and children.

While acknowledging that UNSC has taken important steps against trafficking by unanimously adopting Resolution 2331 [DOC] in December, Guterres urged that these "efforts need to be intensified." Stating that an increased understanding of human trafficking markets and routes is essential to preventing such trafficking, Guterres highlighted: "Trafficking is also a development issue. Preventing the situations that lead to trafficking means addressing poverty and exclusion in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

Guterres called for additional support for victims and survivors of trafficking stating that "they should be treated as victims of crime and not detained, prosecuted or punished for unlawful activities they were compelled to engage in, in order to survive." Concluding that the "international community’s commitment is being tested," Guterres urged the international community at large, including governments, the private sector and civil society, to support organizations such as the Blue Heart Campaign and the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children [official websites], which provide assistance to victims of trafficking.

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