Targeted prosecutions needed to end modern-day scourge

"Human traffickers enjoy near absolute impunity for their crimes ... With millions held in servitude around the globe, human rights lawyers must act," she added.

Targeted prosecutions needed to end modern-day slavery scourge

The might of the law is the best way to end modern day slavery, by bringing strategic cases to court that can change company practice or government policy, experts seeking to stamp out the problem in corporate supply chains said on Tuesday.

Such strategic litigation was successfully used to help end the British slave trade 250 years ago, making slavery in Britain illegal.

To help end slavery today, lawyers and NGOs must build an international network to use the law to punish and deter human traffickers, experts said.

"Strategic litigation can be a catalyst for genuine, long-term change," Nick Grono, head of Freedom Fund, an international initiative to fight slavery, said in a statement.

"It can ... force government action, drive legal reform, punish perpetrators, and compel action by businesses to end or prevent abuses," he added.

A few such cases are already happening.

In New Zealand, litigators secured court orders to seize fishing ships who were allegedly using slave labour in New Zealand waters.

"This is a really innovative approach because it gets the exploiter to the table," Grono said in an interview.

"If a fisherman brings a case in a New Zealand court against a (fishing) company, they'll probably just ignore it. But if you seize their multi-million dollar boat pending resolution of the court action, suddenly you get more attention," Grono added.

Another case in the United States ultimately resulted in a company, accused of human trafficking, being forced into bankruptcy. The corporation had brought hundreds of workers from India to repair shipyards after Hurricane Katrina.

The case ruled on a $20 million settlement for the workers.

Freedom Fund and the U.S.-based Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center want to establish a network of lawyers and NGOs to share their experiences and encourage better litigation practice to combat slavery, Grono said.

Nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labour, which generates about $150 billion a year in illegal profits, according to the International Labour Organization.

Despite the scale of the crime, it goes largely unpunished. In 2014 there were just 10,051 prosecutions worldwide, according to the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report.

"States have failed spectacularly to prosecute forced labour," said Martina E. Vandenberg, president and founder of the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center, which links trafficking victims with pro bono lawyers, said in the joint statement.

Grono said the most effective outcome of targeted litigation would be wider pressure on companies to change their behaviour.

"We're not naive about that, but as companies become more aware of the greater risks around this issue, they will devote more attention to these issues and that can improve practices independent of litigation."

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng

Recommended articles

NYSC sanctions 18 youth corps members in Ekiti

NYSC sanctions 18 youth corps members in Ekiti

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson resigns

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson resigns

National Water Resources bill not for land grabbing — FG

National Water Resources bill not for land grabbing — FG

8 youth corps members to repeat service year, 4 get extension

8 youth corps members to repeat service year, 4 get extension

Gov. Sule appoints 2 Igbo traders as Special Assistants

Gov. Sule appoints 2 Igbo traders as Special Assistants

Ex-Perm Sec seeks improved funding for military

Ex-Perm Sec seeks improved funding for military

Fuel queues may persist until we fully deregulate - Minister

Fuel queues may persist until we fully deregulate - Minister

Poor Health Care: Nigerian man solo-protests at the Ekweremadus' trial [Photos]

Poor Health Care: Nigerian man solo-protests at the Ekweremadus' trial [Photos]

Barkindo’s death a huge loss to Nigeria — Orji Kalu

Barkindo’s death a huge loss to Nigeria — Orji Kalu