Justice and dignity not the privilege of the rich

Women religious from around the world gathered in Rome in 2019 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Talitha Kum, an international network of religious women fighting human trafficking. Photo: CNS/courtesy International Union of Superiors General
Women religious from around the world gathered in Rome in 2019 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Talitha Kum, an international network of religious women fighting human trafficking. Photo: CNS/courtesy International Union of Superiors General

VATICAN (CNS): “The principle of profit maximisation, isolated from all other considerations, leads to a model of exclusion that violently inflicts on those who suffer its social and economic costs in the present, while condemning future generations to pay for its environmental costs,” 

Monsignor Joseph Grech, representative of the Vatican’s permanent mission to the International Organisations in Vienna, told participants at the 20th Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons Conference, organised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“The common good demands that access to justice, political representation and the recognition of the dignity of others are not the privilege of the rich, but rather should be accessible especially to the weak and vulnerable,” Monsignor Grech said.

“All people should enjoy the same universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Monsignor Grech told participants at the conference.

The conference, titled, Ending Impunity: Delivering Justice Through Prosecuting Trafficking in Human Beings was held in Vienna, Austria, from July 20 to 22.

The OSCE website said the conference’s theme “acknowledges that while many countries have legislation and action plans to combat human trafficking, impunity remains widespread across the world and in the OSCE region.”

The OSCE said, “It is estimated that there are about 25 million victims of human trafficking globally. According to the latest reports, in 2019 only a little more than 11,000 traffickers were prosecuted—roughly one prosecution for every 2,154 victims.”

Monsignor Grech said the numbers should “make us indignant” and that the international community must reflect on whether “we have done everything possible to reduce the discrepancy between the high number of estimated victims and the low numbers of court proceedings and convictions.”

He also highlighted the lack of adequate funding for criminal justice systems that, consequently, increases “the risk of criminals continuing their heinous work.”

The monsignor said, “Alternatively, result-oriented efforts are disproportionately channelled to pursue small-time operations and criminals rather than ‘big fish,’ which—despite requiring more time and resources—could instead make a significant difference. This certainly leads, once again, to impunity for the traffickers.”

Recalling Pope Francis’ words on the vulnerability of people who are “defenseless before the interests of a deified market,” Monsignor Grech said the unequal distribution of goods is among several ways that “most people around the world experience a contrast between the rights they are guaranteed by the law and the way they are treated.”

The Covid-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic “has been a severe and unpredictable challenge for the whole world,” especially for human trafficking victims who have no way of escaping, the monsignor said, urging the international community to continue working to protect the rights and dignity of the most vulnerable.

“In this current situation, countries need to keep shelters and hotlines open, safeguard access to justice and prevent more people in vulnerable situations from falling into the hands of organised crime,” he said.

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