Article 3(a) of the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime defines trafficking of persons as the ‘’recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the treat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Article 2 therein holds that the purpose of the Protocol is to prevent trafficking, protect and assist victims of trafficking and promote cooperate to combat trafficking more effectively. Article 6 outlines assistance and protection measures that are to be provided to victims. These include the right to privacy, information of the relevant court proceedings, physical, psychological and social recovery as well as witness protection. Its provisions are formulated in such a manner so as to ensure that trafficked persons are treated as victims and are assigned specific human rights protections, regardless of their origin, race, religion, occupation or other characteristics. This Protocol represents the first concerted effort to embed the principle of victim-protection into national legislation
On a regional scale, Article 4(a) of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 2005 incorporates the same definition of trafficking as in the aforementioned UN document.
Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women holds that States have an obligation to ‘’take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women…’’
In its General Recommendation No. 19, the CEDAW Committee recommends to state parties a number of measures that are significant for the protection of trafficked women, such as the establishment of support services including shelter, specially trained health workers, rehabilitation and counselling.
Also, under international customary law, States are obligated to provide adequate support for victims of crimes. According to the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of power states, ‘’victims should receive the necessary material, medical, psychological and social assistance through governmental, voluntary, community-based and indigenous means…Victims should be informed of the availability of health and social services and other relevant assistance and be readily afforded access to them.’’ A person may be considered a victim according to this Declaration, regardless of whether the perpetrator is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted.
According to these internationally recognised principles, the provision of adequate support to the victim should not depend on the identification or prosecution of the perpetrator. This indicates that trafficked persons should receive assistance because of their status as victims, and not only as a reward for contributing to the prosecution of the traffickers.