Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children


Siobhán Mullally report; Strengthening accountability for trafficking in persons in conflict situations

In this comprehensive and deeply concerning report, United Nations Special Rapporteur Siobhán Mullally, an Irish legal expert, delves into the critical issue of human trafficking in conflict zones, with a specific focus on women and children.

Her findings paint a stark picture of the challenges and gaps in holding perpetrators accountable for trafficking in persons in these turbulent areas. Mullally’s detailed analysis not only sheds light on the complexities of this global problem but also calls for urgent action to strengthen legal and humanitarian responses.

The full scope of her insights and recommendations is encapsulated in the full report, which serves as a pivotal document for policymakers, legal experts, and human rights advocates committed to combating human trafficking.

The full Report can be read here: A/77/170 (

United Nations Special Rapporteur; Trafficking In Persons

The following is a brief selection of findings contained in Irish native, Siobhán Mullally’s, very worrying report on the current state of accountability for those who engage in trafficking of persons from zones of conflict.

Accountability Is Limited

Accountability for trafficking in persons in conflict situations remains limited. The consequences of such continued impunity include limited access to justice and remedies for trafficked persons and continuing failures with regard to prevention and protection.

In her report, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, identifies and analyses the challenges that result in gaps in accountability for trafficking in conflict situations.

Siobhán Mullally also offers a set of recommendations to States, the United Nations and other international organisations on ways to strengthen accountability, combat impunity and ensure effective access to justice for trafficked persons.

International Criminal Court Yet to Prosecute Anyone for the Crime of Trafficking In Persons

The Report highlights that the International Criminal Court has yet to prosecute anyone for the crime of trafficking in persons, be that under the heading of enslavement or sexual slavery, or other associated crimes against humanity.

The Report also highlights that “[w]ith few exceptions, investigative and fact-finding mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, which have a key role to play in promoting accountability, have not investigated the prevalence of trafficking in persons, even in situations where significant indicators of trafficking in persons are present.”

This is a surprising fact and not one that would be expected to be found in modern times, where international judicial cooperation and information exchange is thought to be at its highest ever.

Practically No Prosecution for Trafficking on an International Level

Whilst the Special Rapporteur recognises that some degree of prosecution does occur at a domestic or transnational level, there is practically no prosecution for trafficking on an international level.

This significantly hinders the ability for a victim of trafficking to secure justice against the criminals who have exploited them for profit and reveals a surprising lack of high-level communication between States on this issue.

The silent nature of such trafficking also prevents nations undergoing transitional justice reforms from advancing peace building efforts: “Failures to ensure guarantees of non-repetition further undermine processes of peace building, with armed groups and criminal networks frequently engaging in trafficking in persons in post-conflict and transition settings.”

Challenges of Accountability for Trafficking In Persons

The Report states that a key challenge for the pursuit of accountability for trafficking in persons in conflict situations is the proliferation of non-State armed groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Somalia, Islamic State West Africa, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, ISIS in the middle-east, amongst countless others, and their responsibility for trafficking in persons for all purposes of exploitation.

“Urgent action is needed to address this accountability gap, as well as the related failures and lack of capacity to prevent trafficking by armed groups, and to protect trafficked persons. It has been the experience of the Special Rapporteur in country visits that non-State armed groups are heavily engaged in trafficking in persons, in both conflict and post-conflict settings, and that they operate with impunity, thus limiting access to justice for victims.”

Key Findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Trafficking In Persons

The Report is lengthy and warrants the time it takes to read it all, but I recommend that you do. Some of the conclusions and recommendations included in the Report are:

“50. The Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court should consider amending the Statue to include a stand-alone offence of trafficking in persons. …

  1. Relevant policies of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should be updated and revised to address trafficking in persons for all purposes of exploitation, including as a form of conflict-related sexual violence, and to address the specific obligations arising under international law in relation to protection of child victims of trafficking. Such policies should incorporate relevant obligations arising under international human rights law concerning trafficking in persons and the rights of victims. …
  2. States should:

(a) Ensure the comprehensive application of international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international human rights law and international refugee law to trafficking in persons in conflict situations for all purposes of exploitation, and to both internal and cross-border trafficking in persons, in order to ensure accountability, combat impunity and ensure effective access to justice for trafficked persons …

(d) Strengthen international cooperation and mutual legal assistance to ensure effective investigations, including through bilateral agreements and multilateral cooperation and the ratification and implementation of the Ljubljana-The Hague Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of the Crime of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes and Other International Crimes …

(h) Provide training and specialized personnel to ensure capacity and skills to collect and handle electronic evidence and for the storage of digital evidence, complying with international human rights law and ensuring secure forms of electronic cooperation in international cooperation and joint investigations …

(j) Advance the adoption of a convention on crimes against humanity and specifically enumerate trafficking in persons among the list of acts falling within the definition of crimes against humanity, and not only under the act of enslavement …

(o) Recognize children detained for association with armed groups as victims of grave violations of international law, prioritizing recovery, reintegration and family reunification, and ensure the timely handover of children associated with armed conflict or armed groups to civilian child protection actors”

Takeaways of the Trafficking In Persons Report

This Report is a welcome update on the current situation regarding victims of human trafficking arising out of armed conflict and those displaced persons who very often come to Ireland seeking international protection who I deal with on a daily basis. It is fascinating, yet extremely disappointing, to see how little accountability there is for the perpetrators of such crimes against humanity.

More Needs To Be Done

Whilst European countries such as Ireland, France, Germany, etc., continue to process thousands of international protection applications every year, one has to ask why more is not being done to identify and combat the core issues that lead to people displacement and migration. Human trafficking being one such issue.

Combating Trafficking In Persons

This Report is an exceptional piece of work and demonstrates the culmination of substantial international research by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Siobhán Mullally. Mullally is to be commended on her efforts in the human rights sector, in particular her work.

Siobhán Mullally

In outlining the support she received during her work, Ms Mullally states:

“In drafting the report, the Special Rapporteur relied on extensive consultations with lawyers, practitioners, civil society, victims and survivors, States and international organizations and drew upon country reports. An expert workshop hosted in The Hague benefited from excellent participation by staff of the International Criminal Court and of Human Rights Council investigative mechanisms. The Special Rapporteur is especially grateful to the International Human Rights Clinic at Duke University for the background research provided for the report and for co-hosting the expert workshop and consultations.”

Trafficking Solicitors In Ireland

KOD Lyons Solicitors has worked closely with numerous victims of human trafficking. We welcome any discussion about this topic and will continue to do our best to assist victims in any way we can.

What Is Trafficking?

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a serious crime that involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud, coercion or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.

It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers often exploit people who are vulnerable, such as those who are poor, homeless, or undocumented.

Types of Human Trafficking

There are two main types of human trafficking:

  • Sex trafficking: This is the trafficking of people for the purpose of forced sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking victims are often forced to work in brothels, strip clubs, or other venues where they are forced to engage in prostitution.
  • Labour trafficking: This is the trafficking of people for the purpose of forced labour. Labour trafficking victims are often forced to work in hazardous conditions, for long hours, and for little or no pay.

How Human Trafficking Happens

Traffickers often use a variety of methods to exploit their victims. These methods include:

  • Force: Traffickers may use physical force, threats of violence, or intimidation to control their victims.
  • Fraud: Traffickers may deceive their victims by making false promises of jobs, education, or other opportunities.
  • Coercion: Traffickers may use emotional manipulation, blackmail, or psychological pressure to control their victims.
  • Debt bondage: Traffickers may trap their victims in debt by charging them for transportation, housing, or other necessities.

Signs of Human Trafficking

There are a number of signs that may indicate that someone is being trafficked, such as:

  • Appearing malnourished or unhealthy
  • Being withdrawn or fearful
  • Not having control of their own documents or finances
  • Living or working in overcrowded or unsafe conditions
  • Being unable to leave their workplace or home
  • Showing signs of physical or emotional abuse

If you suspect that someone is being trafficked, it is important to report it to the authorities immediately. You can also contact a human trafficking hotline or organisation for more information and support.

Here are some resources that can help:

By working together, we can help to end human trafficking and protect the most vulnerable among us.

Trafficking Solicitors In Ireland

Reports such as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons put pressure on international governing bodies to take action and increase the accountability of those guilty of trafficking persons.

At KOD Lyons, we support every initiative towards this common goal by offering our support and legal expertise. Please reach out to us, should you want to discuss this issue further.

See more of our coverage on related topics: UN Provides Updated Guidance on Voluntary Returns to Ukraine | International Protection in Ireland: A Short Guide to the Asylum Process | Suspension of the Immigrant Investor Programme.

Daithí Ó’Maonaigh, LLB, LLM


Daithí Ó’Maonaigh, LLB, LLM

International Protection Legal Executive

KOD Lyons Solicitors

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