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Kosovo: Nato force 'feeds Kosovo sex trade'

Publish Date: 07 May 2004

Source: The Guardian
By: Ian Traynor in Zagreb

Western troops, policemen, and civilians are largely to blame for the rapid growth of the sex slavery industry in Kosovo over the past five years, a mushrooming trade in which hundreds of women, many of them under-age girls, are tortured, raped, abused and then criminalised, Amnesty International said yesterday.

In a report on the rapid growth of sex-trafficking and forced prostitution rackets since Nato troops and UN administrators took over the Balkan province in 1999, Amnesty said Nato soldiers, UN police, and western aid workers operated with near impunity in exploiting the victims of the sex traffickers.

As a result of the influx of thousands of Nato-led peacekeepers, "Kosovo soon became a major destination country for women trafficked into forced prostitution. A small-scale local market for prostitution was transformed into a large-scale industry based on trafficking, predominantly run by criminal networks."

The international presence in Kosovo continues to generate 80% of the income for the pimps, brothel-owners, and mafiosi who abduct local girls or traffic women mainly from Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia to Kosovo via Serbia, the report said, although the international "client base" for the sex trade has fallen to 20% last year from 80% four years ago.

Up to 2,000 women are estimated to have been coerced into sex slavery in Kosovo, which had seen "an unprecedented escalation in trafficking" in recent years. The number of premises in Kosovo listed by a special UN police unit as being involved in the rackets has swollen from 18 in 1999 to 200 this year.

A few weeks ago the UN's department of peacekeeping in New York acknowledged that "peacekeepers have come to be seen as part of the problem in trafficking rather than the solution".

The sex slavery in Kosovo parallels similar phenomena next door in Bosnia, where the arrival of thousands of Nato peacekeepers in 1995 fuelled a thriving forced prostitution industry.

International personnel in Kosovo enjoy immunity from prosecution unless this is waived by the UN in New York for UN employees or by national military chiefs for Nato-led troops.

One police officer last year and another the year before had their immunity waived, enabling criminal prosecutions.

"Amnesty International has been unable to find any evidence of any criminal proceedings related to trafficking against any military personnel in their home countries," the 80-page report said.

The report said that US, French, German and Italian soldiers were known to have been involved in the rackets.

Criticism of the international troops in Kosovo follows a recent broader indictment of the Kosovo mission by the International Crisis Group thinktank, which called for the mission to be overhauled.

Women were bought and sold for up to £2,000 and then kept in appalling conditions as slaves by their "owners", Amnesty said. They were routinely raped "as a means of control and coercion", beaten, held at gunpoint, robbed, and kept in darkened rooms unable to go out.

Apart from women trafficked into Kosovo, there is a worsening problem with girls abducted locally. A Kosovo support group working with victims reported that a third of these locals were under 14, and 80% were under 18.

The UN admission in March that its peacekeepers were part of the problem was welcome, said Amnesty.

© 2004 The Guardian

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Further story:

May 06, 04
Source: BBC News

Kosovo UN troops 'fuel sex trade'

The presence of peacekeepers in Kosovo is fuelling the sexual exploitation of women and encouraging trafficking, according to Amnesty International.

It claims UN and Nato troops in the region are using the trafficked women and girls for sex and some have been involved in trafficking itself.

Amnesty says girls as young as 11 from eastern European countries are being sold into the sex slavery.

A Nato spokesman said some details of the report seemed out of date.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Moran said some policies had changed. Peacekeepers were "not allowed" off base in civilian clothing or to go to bars and nightclubs, he said.

"Each nation is responsible for the conduct of their soldiers, and if they find a soldier that is breaking the law, it is up to them to bring them to justice," he added.

There has been no comment from the UN.

Trading houses

Amnesty's report, entitled "So does that mean I have rights? Protecting the human rights of women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution in Kosovo," was published on Thursday.

It is based on interviews with women and girls who have been trafficked from countries such as Moldova, Bulgaria and the Ukraine to service Kosovo's sex industry.

They are said to have been moved illegally across borders and sold in "trading houses," where they are sometimes drugged and "broken in" before being sold from one trafficker to another for prices ranging from 50 to 3,500 euros ($60 - 4,200).

The report includes harrowing testimonies of abduction, deprivation of liberty and denial of freedom of movement, torture and ill-treatment, including psychological threats, beatings and rape.

Instead of getting a proper job the women and girls find themselves trapped, enslaved, forced into prostitution.

The report condemns the role of the international peacekeepers.

Slavery

It says that after 40,000 K-For troops and hundreds of Unmik personnel were sent to Kosovo in 1999, a "small-scale local market for prostitution was transformed into a large-scale industry based on trafficking run by organised criminal networks".

The number of places in Kosovo where trafficked women and girls may be exploited, such as nightclubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and cafes, has increased from 18 in 1999 to more than 200 in 2003.

The report claims international personnel make up about 20% of the people using trafficked women and girls even though its members comprise only 2% of Kosovo's population.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"Women and girls as young as 11 are being sold into sexual slavery in Kosovo and international peacekeepers are not only failing to stop it they are actively fuelling this despicable trade by themselves paying for sex from trafficked women.

"It is time for countries to stop treating trafficking as a form of 'illegal migration' and see it as a particularly vicious form of human rights abuse."

One woman told Amnesty International: "I was forced by the boss to serve international soldiers and police officers... I never had a chance of running away and leaving that miserable life, because I was observed every moment by a woman."

Criminals

Another told how German soldiers were instructed by their superiors not to go with prostitutes, but went anyway.

"They told the pimp, that if someone would be coming, he should alert them," she said. "After a while the pimp employed a guardian."

Amnesty says that despite some positive measures by the authorities to combat trafficking, the women and girls are often still treated as criminals - prosecuted for being unlawfully in Kosovo, or charged with prostitution.

Amnesty International is calling on the Kosovo authorities, including Unmik, to: implement measures to end the trafficking of women and girls to, from and within Kosovo for forced prostitution ensure that measures are taken to protect the victims of trafficking ensure that those trafficked have a right to redress and reparation for the human rights abuses they have suffered

Amnesty says Unmik's own figures show that by the end of 2003, 10 of their police officers had been dismissed or repatriated in connection with allegations related to trafficking.

In the year and half to July 2003 some 22-27 K-For troops were suspected of offences relating to trafficking, the report says.

However, Kfor troops and UN personnel are immune from prosecution in Kosovo and those who have been dismissed relating to such offences have escaped any criminal proceedings in their home countries.

Ms Allen added: "The international community in Kosovo is now adding insult to injury by securing immunity from prosecution for its personnel and apparently hushing up their shameful part in the abuse of trafficked women and girls."

The organisation called on the UN and Nato to implement measures to ensure that any personnel suspected of criminal offences associated with trafficking are brought to justice.

© BBC MMIV