Cablegate: Goc Continues Energetic Fight Against Trafficking

DE RUEHVB #1261/01 2910720
R 180720Z OCT 06





E.O. 12958 : NA

Sensitive but unclassified, please handle accordingly

1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: GOC officials and Croatian NGOs
presented a coherent and well-structured approach to fighting
trafficking in persons (TIP) to visiting G/TIP Foreign Affairs
Officer Jennifer Donnelly in late September. Although NGOs praised
the government's anti-trafficking laws, policies, and victim
referral system, they admitted that Croatia is still on a learning
curve, and effective implementation, particularly in the form of
victim identification and effective court cases, is still being
realized. Over the past two years, Croatia has put in place a
National Action Plan, Operational Plan, legal framework and
enforcement infrastructure, demonstrating a genuine political
commitment and operational efforts in the areas of prevention,
education and victims' assistance.

2 (SBU) Donnelly and embassy officials stressed in meetings with
Croatian officials the need to further enhance anti-TIP activities
by increasing the numbers of TIP-related prosecutions and
convictions and intensifying the effort to identify more victims
needing assistance. Although partly due to an overloaded and
inefficient judicial system, the lack of TIP convictions remains of
concern to the USG. Most NGOs, as well as anti-trafficking national
coordinator Luka Maderic, noted Croatia's growing role as a
destination country. With a good referral mechanism and shelters in
place, the government appears to be institutionally prepared to
handle this reality. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT

3. (U) Embassy Zagreb welcomed the September 27-29 visit of GTIP
Foreign Affairs Officer Jennifer Donnelly as a valuable opportunity
to reinforce strong U.S interest in Croatia's anti-TIP activities,
to commend Croatia for actions taken over the past two years, and to
seek an intensified focus on identifying victims and building sound
legal cases for prosecution and convictions of traffickers. Embassy
arranged a broad cross-section of meetings for Ms. Donnelly with,
inter alia, the National TIP Coordinator (who is also Head of the
Government Office for Human Rights), representatives of the of the
Ministry of Interior (including Immigration and Border police, the
Organized Crime Department, and others), head of the local office of
the International Organization for Migration, and a number of other
NGOs from throughout the country.

4. (U) Throughout the visit, NGOs expressed satisfaction with the
efforts of Croatian National TIP coordinator, Luka Maderic, Head of
the Croatian Government Office for Human Rights. As noted in the
annual U.S. report, the GOC's annual National Action Plan and
Strategy for the Suppression of Trafficking in Persons clearly
identifies measures, activities, implementing authority, funding,
and indicators needed to fight trafficking. While the implementation
for the National Strategy mostly lies within the jurisdiction of the
Ministry of Interior, a collaborative effort with the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ministry of
Family, Ministry of Justice, and the State's Attorney's Office
clearly exists. Ongoing efforts to educate police officers and
border agents about victim identification and assistance were
particularly notable successes in the GoC's efforts to combating

5. (U) Several NGOs noted that the while the legislative framework
and infrastructure to successfully combat trafficking in persons are
clearly in place, a Memorandum of Understanding between NGOs and the
GoC would help alleviate misunderstandings about which protocols the
government was responsible for implementing, and under what
guidelines NGOs should operate under when assisting TIP victims of
TIP. GoC officials indicated that drafting, approval and signature
of such an MOU is planned for 2007. This will further strengthen
existing cooperation and will make protocols between NGOs and GoC
more formal.

6. (U) During meetings with NGOs, Donnelly and embassy officials
heard anecdotal information about Croatia's role as a destination
country for both sexual exploitation and forced labor. Given
Croatia's growing popularity as a tourist destination, particularly
along Croatia's Adriatic coastline, sex tourism and prostitution are
is increasingly evident. NGOs noted that Croatia's special dancer
or go-go visas (1,500 issued/available a year) were a possible tool
for traffickers to exploit victims. In addition, IOM indicated that
an estimated 200 unaccompanied minors visit Croatia annually, and
alleged that 80% of these minors are trafficking victims.

7. (U) The GOC has identified seven TIP victims in the first nine
months of 2006,(Embassy is seeking clarification from IOM which
identified ten victims). During a meeting with anti-trafficking
police and border officials, police acknowledged there is a 'hidden
number' of trafficking in Croatia, as well as undiscovered cases in
the country. One NGO asserted "we definitely have more victims than
officially recorded." Some NGOs noted that part of the problem with
victim identification lies in the fact that police in Croatia are
solely responsible for victim identification, and while police have
received good training, IOM questioned whether they are truly
'sensitized' to this inherently complex problem. Another NGO noted

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that the time window of 12-24 hours for law enforcement to interview
potential victims is too short for victims to feel comfortable
enough to disclose the details of their exploitation or realize they
are trafficking victims. All NGOs clearly were happy with the
referral system itself but noted that identification is a long
learning process; Croatian authorities are still learning from other
countries' practices.

8. (U) Some NGOs attributed low victim identification to an overall
regional trend of growing sophistication and organization of
trafficking (including more victims holding legal/forged
documentation); as a result it has become more difficult to
distinguish trafficking from illegal/legal migration and
prostitution. While police reported that all illegal migrants are
screened for trafficking indicators, two NGOs indicated that they
did not believe screening among women in prostitution was
"adequate", with IOM further noting that the adequacy of screening
efforts are still mixed among women in prostitution. Due to the
changing trends noted above, it has become more difficult to
identify them as trafficking victims as many will insist they are
voluntary. IOM also noted that trafficking networks are rotating
victims between BiH and Croatia and that IOM is seeing women in
Croatia who are later identified as victims in BiH and Serbia -
although they usually are exploited and trafficked in Croatia as

9. (U) Embassy officers used Ms. Donnelly's visit to reiterate with
GOC officials the importance of investigation, prosecution and
conviction of traffickers as a deterrent to trafficking in the
region and as an indicator of Croatia's seriousness in pursuing
traffickers. One NGO asserted that the judiciary continues to be the
weakest link and is not sufficiently pursuing cases. IOM also
alleged that confidentiality is an issue among prosecutors and
judges and described some instances where judges faxed case
information (including victims' identity) to journalists. With
seven ongoing investigations, and three criminal charges pending
against nine alleged perpetrators, convictions are likely to
increase as cases begin to work their way through the already
backlogged legal system.

10. (U) Ms. Donnelly has cleared this message.


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