Each year, the Department of State honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking. These individuals are NGO workers, lawmakers, police officers, and concerned citizens who are committed to ending modern slavery. They are recognized for their tireless efforts – despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives – to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad.
As a prosecutor and head of the Specialized Office for Investigation of Kidnapping and Trafficking in Persons’ cases (UFASE), Marcelo Colombo has undertaken significant efforts to improve and institutionalize procedures for the investigation of human trafficking cases.
While working in the UFASE, Mr. Colombo has improved data collection, formulated and distributed guidance on trafficking investigation best practices, and raised awareness and trained investigators. He oversaw the creation of a database containing all trafficking in persons’ cases, helped law enforcement officers and prosecutors detect regional and socio-economic trends, and established an on-line resource available for prosecutors on legal doctrine and jurisprudence to facilitate human trafficking case preparation. Mr. Colombo has improved institutional cooperation within the government by formalizing partnerships with the judiciary’s Office for Women and the executive’s Ministry of Security and Office of Rescue to ensure best practices are implemented in rescue operations.
Mr. Colombo has profoundly influenced anti-trafficking efforts in Argentina, including the first human trafficking conviction in November 2009, the conviction of 19 traffickers in 2011, and the draft bill to amend the anti-trafficking law approved by the Senate in 2011. Last year, Mr. Colombo took a public stand against official complicity in human trafficking, charging 75 federal police officers with the crime and filing similar actions against policemen in other districts. While the courts have not yet rendered judgment on the cases, his action was one of many examples of his courage in combating human trafficking.
Read more about Marcelo Colombo.
Despite a full-time job as deputy police commissioner of Aruba, Jeannette Richardson-Baars devotes countless extra hours to ensure Aruba achieves results in combating human trafficking. Under Mrs. Richardson-Baars’s leadership, Aruba’s interagency committee has uncovered both labor and sex trafficking cases, and shown serious commitment and political will through effective governmental policies to rescue victims and prosecute traffickers.
Although she had no specific budget assigned to her, Mrs. Richardson-Baars did not allow limited financial or human resources to become obstacles to anti-trafficking efforts. Using her own computer, she launched a multi-faceted public awareness campaign that was translated into various languages and displayed posters prominently all over the island. The campaign resulted in reports by the public of several possible trafficking situations. Mrs. Richardson-Baars sought creative solutions to help victims on this small island, where anonymity is a challenge, by utilizing a Kingdom of the Netherlands-wide Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to shelter victims of trafficking elsewhere. She takes a collaborative and transparent approach to her work, sharing best practices at international forums and speaking openly about challenges, including complicity of public servants. Her courage to address human trafficking in a frank and constructive way stands out among other tourism-based islands, where fear of reporting bad news may hamper a proactive approach to the issue.
Read more about Jeanette Richardson-Baars.
As an international civil servant, legal practitioner, teacher, and scholar, Dr. Anne Gallagher, Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), has exercised major influence over the development of international law and policy on trafficking. Dr. Gallagher was a United Nations official from 1992 to 2003, and served as Advisor on Trafficking to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1998 to 2002. During this time she represented the High Commissioner at negotiations on the Trafficking Protocol and guided the development of the UN Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking.
Since 2003, Dr. Gallagher has led an ambitious program, funded by the Australian Agency for International Development, aimed at strengthening legislative and criminal justice responses to trafficking in Southeast Asia. This initiative has been widely acclaimed for its positive impact on laws, policies and practices within and outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. Dr. Gallagher has made a substantial and highly appreciated contribution to identifying the core elements of an effective criminal justice response to trafficking – one that seeks to both end impunity of traffickers and secure justice for victims. Dr. Gallagher is considered the leading global expert on the international law on human trafficking. In June 2012 she was appointed AO, Australia’s second-highest civic honor. This appointment was made for her “distinguished service to the law and human rights, as a practitioner, teacher and scholar, particularly in areas of human trafficking responses and criminal justice.” She is the author of numerous scholarly publications, including The International Law of Human Trafficking, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.
Read more about Anne Gallagher.
Vannak Anan Prum
Vannak Anan Prum was lured to Thailand by the promise of a lucrative job, but instead was deceived by a labor broker. He was forced to work on a Thai fishing boat from 2005 to 2009 in slave-like conditions, never receiving a salary. During this time he was mistreated, starved, and tortured. Mr. Prum escaped with another fisherman by jumping off the boat and swimming four kilometers to shore when the boat was anchored off Malaysian Borneo. According to his account, upon attempting unsuccessfully to obtain help returning to Cambodia, he was sold by corrupt officials to a palm oil plantation. After several months of forced labor on the plantation, an altercation with another worker landed him in detention. While in detention, he was able to establish contact with Malaysian and Cambodian human rights NGOs, which collaborated to have Mr. Prum repatriated to Cambodia, though not until he had spent several additional months in detention. Since then, Mr. Prum has been committed to ending human trafficking and has worked to raise awareness on human trafficking for labor exploitation in the Thai fishing industry through a series of drawings that recreate his experience. Mr. Prum has been interviewed about his experience and anti-human trafficking efforts by Radio Free Asia and has appeared in a Human Trafficking awareness video produced by MTV Exit.
Read more about Vannak Anan Prum.
Raimi Vincent Paraiso
Republic of Congo
Raimi Vincent Paraiso, coordinator of the Pointe Noire-based NGO ALTO, works tirelessly to improve the lives of child trafficking and forced labor victims in Pointe-Noire. Mr. Paraiso has more than five years of experience in providing assistance to trafficking victims in the Republic of the Congo, and is a source of information on human trafficking for the Congolese government, embassies, and international organizations. His efforts to identify and provide aid to victims have resulted in threats and acts of violence against him and his wife from traffickers in the Beninese community of Pointe-Noire. But despite his fears that his life is in jeopardy, he continues to identify and support an increasing number of trafficking victims each year.
In 2011, in partnership with the Congolese government and alongside colleagues in ALTO, Mr. Paraiso identified 57 trafficking victims. He also communicated with Ministry of Social Affairs and Humanitarian Action and police authorities to coordinate the victims’ protection, and traveled with several children during their repatriation to Benin. Mr. Paraiso joined the Government of the Republic of Congo delegation in Benin to develop and validate an action plan for the 2011 Republic of Congo-Benin anti-trafficking cooperation agreement.
Read more about Raimi Vincent Paraiso.
Philip Hyldgaard is one of the most prominent anti-human trafficking NGO leaders in Greece. As European Operations Manager for The A21 Campaign, an NGO dedicated to fighting human trafficking, Mr. Hyldgaard guided the launch of The A21 Campaign in Greece and facilitated the opening of The A21 Campaign’s first shelter for victims of trafficking. Because of his dedication to victim protection and support, The A21 Campaign was able to offer shelter to 21 victims of sex trafficking in 2011. These victims also received vocational training, computer skills, life and education guidance, counseling, and access to legal assistance through its transition program, Empower.
Mr. Hyldgaard’s vision and guidance have led to the establishment of a nationwide hotline to report suspected cases of human trafficking and to increase awareness among government officials, students, and the general public in Greece about the scourge of human trafficking. Under his leadership, The A21 Campaign continues to work tirelessly to educate and enlist new partners through its growing internship program and various outreach and awareness-raising initiatives. His energy and commitment have helped expand The A21 Campaign to other countries including Bulgaria, the Ukraine, the UK, and the United States.
Read more about Philip Hyldgaard.
Azezet Habtezghi Kidane
Azezet Habtezghi Kidane, also known as Sister Aziza, is a member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters from Eritrea who volunteers as a nurse for the NGO Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I). During the past two years she has called attention to human trafficking in Sinai, Egypt, including sexual slavery and the torture of thousands of African asylum seekers. Her work led to a groundbreaking research project that has interviewed hundreds of victims living in Israel. This painstaking work was accomplished by the devotion of Sister Aziza who helped identify men, women, and children who had been kidnapped, repeatedly raped, or subjected to forced labor and sexual servitude, in addition to being tortured for ransom payments, in the Sinai.
Sister Aziza’s perseverance, heartfelt concern, and willingness to listen to countless hours of interviews enabled many victims to open up about their experiences of rape, torture, kidnapping, forced labor, and sexual slavery. Whereas previously little was known of the specific atrocities in Egypt, these documented first-hand accounts have led to widespread international media reporting and attention to human trafficking in the region. The State Department has relied on the work of Sister Aziza and PHR-I to promote awareness of this important issue.
Read more about Sister Azezet Habtezghi Kidane.
Maria Grazia Giammarinaro
Since January 2010, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro has served as the OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. Her leadership has transformed the OSCE’s anti-human trafficking efforts across the OSCE. In 2011, she traveled to 16 countries to engage with government officials, members of parliament, law enforcement, judiciary, and civil society on human trafficking. Dr. Giammarinaro has focused intensively on labor exploitation and domestic servitude. She has facilitated research, scheduled for release in 2012, on codes of conduct in the private sector to reduce demand for services of or goods produced by victims of trafficking.
Dr. Giammarinaro shepherded the Ministerial Declaration on combating trafficking to adoption at the Vilnius Ministerial 2011. She has strengthened the OSCE’s partnership through the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons, an informal platform of advocacy including UN agencies, international organizations, social partners, and international NGOs dealing with human rights and trafficking. Dr. Giammarinaro has been a judge at the Criminal Court of Rome since 1991. Prior to joining the OSCE, she was instrumental in the development of the Italian legislation against trafficking in persons, the 2005 Council of Europe Convention, and the 2011 EU Directive on trafficking. She also coordinated the European Commission Group of Experts on Trafficking in Human Beings.
Read more about Maria Grazia Giammarinaro.
Fatimata M’Baye has demonstrated consistent and courageous advocacy for human rights over three decades. Ms. M’Baye is an attorney and the president and co-founder of the human rights NGO Mauritanian Association for Human Rights, Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH). As president of AMDH, Ms. M’Baye has assumed a proactive role in garnering support for the rule of law and for efforts to protect disenfranchised and vulnerable individuals, including human trafficking victims.
Despite being imprisoned several times and facing state-sponsored racism against Afro-Mauritanians during the events of 1989-1991 known as the passif humanitaire, Ms. M’Baye prevailed as the first female attorney in Mauritania. As a human rights attorney, she works to address the most deep-seated human rights issues in Mauritania, including defending human rights activists in court and advocating for the prosecution and conviction of human traffickers. Ms. M’Baye’s anti-human trafficking contributions in Mauritania have been of fundamental importance. She played a significant role in 2007 as a key drafter of the precedent-setting law criminalizing human trafficking, and she is now at the forefront of a campaign to ensure enforcement of the legislation. As a result of Ms. M’Baye’s efforts, Mauritania accomplished a series of firsts from December 2010 to November 2011: the first conviction for child exploitation, the first indictment for slavery practices, and the first prison sentence applied under the 2007 anti-slavery law.
As President and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM), the human rights organization he founded in 1997, Gary Haugen has built a global team of hundreds of lawyers, investigators, and social workers. Directed by their faith and commitment to global justice, IJM staff partner with local governments to rescue and provide aftercare for victims and to hold traffickers accountable under local law. Before founding IJM, Mr. Haugen served as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he directed investigations into police misconduct, and served as Officer in Charge of the UN investigation in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.
Under Mr. Haugen’s leadership, IJM has assisted nearly 4,000 victims of sex trafficking and forced labor since 2006 alone, leading to more than 220 criminal convictions and hundreds of ongoing trials. In addition to IJM’s work against modern slavery, the organization is bringing its innovative model to address sexual violence, property seizure, illegal detention, and police brutality.
Mr. Haugen’s vision has transformed the landscape of human rights advocacy and is empowering a new generation of activists to help local governments transform justice systems to protect the poor from violence. This powerful model is working: independent evaluation has demonstrated that after four years of IJM partnership with local law enforcement in Cebu, Philippines, the availability of minors for sex decreased by a stunning 79 percent.