An international seminar organized by the OSCE Office on protection mechanisms for victims of human trafficking started in Baku on November 26.
The two-day event aims at building the capacity of judges, prosecutors, and lawyers to prosecute for human trafficking and forced labor, as well as the protection of victims of trafficking.
The seminar encompass in-depth discussions about the critical role of the judicial system in combating human trafficking, key issues that arise in courts, and problems that are faced with regard to the testimony of victims.
Participants also discussed the issue of compensating victims as a crucial element of an empowerment strategy. Another topic of discussion was the role of bar associations in providing legal assistance to victims of trafficking, as well as a free legal aid system.
During the event, the OSCE Office presented the Azerbaijani version of the handbook developed by the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings on the implementation of the non-punishment provision for victims of trafficking.
In his opening speech, Ambassador Koray Targay, Head of the OSCE Office in Baku, said Azerbaijan has the best practices in the fight against human trafficking.
"The country has achieved good results in this sphere. Regional countries can use Azerbaijan's positive practices," he said.
He said it is important to ensure that all parties involved in counter-trafficking acknowledge the vulnerability of victims. A victim protection system should be put in place that would not criminalize victims for the offences they were forced to commit while being trafficked.
Head of Department for combating human trafficking of the Interior Ministry Javad Shikhaliyev said at the number of criminals related to human trafficking has declined in Azerbaijan. "This year, 15 cases of sexual exploitation and four cases of forced labor were identified among the human trafficking offenses," he added.
He said few foreign citizens were identified as victims of human trafficking for first time in Azerbaijan and 2 of them were granted a status of migrant.
New national action plan is underway
The new national action plan on the fight against human trafficking which will cover 2014-2018 is underway, Interior Ministry told Trend.
The action plan will be the third in this sphere; the first one covered 2008-2012, and the second one covered 2009-2013. The realization of the second plan is practically over and its items have been fully carried out. The new national plan is ready and has been introduced to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval.
Special social rehabilitation centers for victims of human trafficking operate in Azerbaijan, in which 45 victims of human trafficking can be accommodated. The victims are provided with free legal, medical, and psychological services and care, clothes, foods, and other needs. A special asylum for children also operates in Azerbaijan.