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Victims who emerge from their situation of exploitation are generally in a situation of great precariousness and vulnerability. International and regional legal instruments contain several articles relating to the rights of victims of trafficking. Chapter  III of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings provides the most comprehensive framework for the rights of victims. The Council of Europe Convention promotes, inter alia, equality between women and men and the use of gender mainstreaming in the development, implementation and evaluation of different measures.

As the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is the most binding legal instrument in the fight against trafficking, the following list of rights are derived from the Convention: 

After identifying the victims, they must be assisted (Article 12). This assistance is unconditional, i.e. this right to assistance is not subordinated to the victim’s willingness to testify. Assistance is aimed at the physical, psychological and social recovery of the victims. This includes adequate and safe accommodation, access to emergency medical care, access to education for children. Victims also have the right to assistance with translation and interpretation. They have the right to counselling and information about their rights as well as to legal aid. 

Victims also have the right to privacy (Article 11). Indeed, safeguarding the privacy of victims is essential because they can be threatened. Very often, the disclosure of their identity can create an obstacle to their social reintegration in their country of origin or destination. There is, however, an exception concerning the identity of child victims, whose disclosure of identity may be possible if it makes it possible to trace family members or ensure their well-being and protection.

Victims also have the right to a period of recovery and reflection (Article 13) which must be of sufficient duration for the person concerned to recover and escape the influence of traffickers and/or to make an informed decision to cooperate with the authorities. The Council of Europe Convention considers that a period of at least 30 days is necessary.

Victims when they are in a territory that is not their country of nationality, must be granted a renewable residence permit (Article 14) and must not be subject to expulsion measures. Their stay may be necessary because of their personal circumstances or because of their cooperation with the competent authorities for the purposes of a criminal investigation or procedure.

Victims also have the right to compensation (Article 15) for the harm they have suffered. From their first contact with the competent authorities, victims must have access to information on relevant judicial and administrative proceedings in a language they understand.

Victims have the right to repatriation and return, preferably voluntary (Article 16) with due regard to the rights, security and dignity of the person.

It should be mentioned that victims have  a principle of non-punishment (Article 26) which provides that, in accordance with the fundamental principles of the legal system of each country, the possibility of not imposing sanctions on victims for having taken part in unlawful activities when they have been compelled to do so.

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