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The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings does not undermine the rights and obligations arising from the provisions of the Palermo Protocol. Its purpose is to strengthen the protection established by the Protocol and to develop the standards it sets forth. The Convention adopts the definition of trafficking found in the Palermo Protocol, with the exception of the term “trafficking in persons,” which has been replaced by “trafficking in human beings.” Thus, the act, means, and purpose remain the same.

The Convention has a broader scope than the Palermo Protocol as it applies to both national and transnational trafficking, whether linked to organized crime or not, while the Palermo Protocol only applies to certain transnational offenses and involves an organized criminal group.

The Convention introduces unprecedented innovations in international law by applying to:

  • All forms of trafficking in human beings, regardless of whether the victim is a man, woman, or child;
  • National and transnational trafficking, whether linked to organized crime or not;
  • In the case of transnational trafficking, it applies to victims who have entered or are legally residing in the territory of the receiving Party, as well as those who have entered or are staying illegally.

The Council of Europe Convention defines the concept of “victim,” whereas other international instruments leave it to each state to define who is a victim eligible for protection and assistance. The Convention goes further than the Palermo Protocol and the EU Directive on combating trafficking in human beings (2011) because it requires states to adopt specific procedures to ensure the prompt and accurate identification of persons who are victims of trafficking.

Similarly, while the Palermo Protocol only encourages States parties to “consider implementing measures to ensure the physical, psychological, and social recovery of victims of trafficking,” the Council of Europe Convention obliges them to take a number of legislative and other measures necessary to assist victims in their physical, psychological, and social recovery.

Finally, the Convention promotes international cooperation in the fight against trafficking in human beings and establishes a Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) to monitor the implementation of the Convention by States parties.

Key normative instruments related to human trafficking*:

*It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and other Council of Europe instruments may also contribute to the fight against these crimes.

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