How we protect the right to privacy and data confidentiality of victims of human trafficking

Photo: JUGPRESS June 27, 2021


Protection of privacy and data confidentiality on victims of human trafficking is the most important task that must become a priority in the actions of all professionals who deal with their protection. This was a conclusion of a meeting held in cooperation with Local Anti-Trafficking Teams from Vranje, Leskovac, Pirot and Prokuplje. The meeting entitled “Multisectoral exchange of local practices: How we protect the right to privacy and data confidentiality of victims of human trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence?" was attended by representatives of local self-governments, police directorates, centres for social work, Red Cross…

Beba Kanacki, vice president of the Local Anti-Trafficking Team in Vranje, called for closer networking of all relevant actors who can prevent violations of the right to privacy and data confidentiality of trafficking victims, especially at the local level, to prevent their secondary victimization.

Mitar Djuraskovic from the Police Directorate, Office of the Ministry of the Interior for Coordination of Anti-Trafficking Activities, spoke at the meeting, reflecting on the Law on Police which provides for the protection of victims' rights in several articles, as well as on the importance of the topic and the obligation to protect the privacy and data confidentiality of victims of trafficking. He announced that trainings for 50 police officers will begin in the fall, on the topic of protecting victims' rights and human rights for victims of various crimes. He particularly emphasized that Instructions on the conduct of police officers in cases of suspected trafficking are currently in the final phase of drafting and that a particular focus is on the duty of police officers to inform a presumed victim about their rights, including the rights to confidentiality and privacy.

Zlatko Petrovic, a senior advisor from the office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, emphasized that this is the third Law on Personal data protection in our country and that the last one came into force in August 2019. He stated that there are numerous challenges in the application of this law, especially due to the literal rewriting of European laws, as was the case here. In this regard, for example, data on victims do not belong to particularly sensitive personal data because it was not considered when creating this law, which is a major omission. Petrovic said that in the last 10 years, the Commissioner has filed 45 criminal charges against officials who deal with the processing of various personal data.

“No criminal report of the Commissioner received its epilogue,” Petrovic pointed out, and the public prosecutors’ offices failed to provide sufficient information about their actions on those reports.

Uros Misljenovic from the organization Partners for Democratic Change reminded that the organization he comes from analyzed the actions of courts and prosecutors’ offices in cases of personal data protection in the period from 2015 to mid-2020; specifically, the practice of courts on the criminal offence of Unauthorized Collection of Personal Data from Article 146 of the Criminal Code, and the actions of public prosecutors’ offices, and that conclusions are quite pessimistic and speak in favour of the fact that the existing Law on Data Protection is not respected to a great extent. He emphasized that in cases of violence, information is leaked to the media due to ignorance, carelessness or abuse and that work should be done to prevent this phenomenon. Reflecting on the role of civil society, he called the civil sector for closer cooperation to protect the right to privacy and data confidentiality of victims of human trafficking and other forms of violence.

The meeting represents support to institutions and organizations in strengthening the strategic system and response to human trafficking under the Strategy for Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings, especially Women and Children, and Protection of Victims for the period 2017-2022. It also dealt with strengthening local mechanisms, mapping risks and challenges in preserving the right to privacy and personal data confidentiality on victims of trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence. A particular focus of the meeting was on the promotion of inclusive and strategic partnership between local civil society organizations and institutions regarding issues in the field of protection of the right to privacy and personal data confidentiality of victims of trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence.

In addition to the members of the Local Anti-Trafficking Teams, this meeting was attended by a representative of the Center for the Protection of Trafficking Victims with the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Social and Veteran Affairs, as well as representatives of the NGO sector from Partners for Democratic Change and Atina - Citizens’ Association for combating trafficking in human beings and all forms of gender-based violence.

The meeting was held within the project “Reclaiming Privacy: A Tool to Fight Oppression”, jointly implemented by Partners for Democratic Change, SHARE Foundation, A11 Initiative, “Da se zna!” Association, Belgrade Open School and Atina, with the assistance of the European Union. This project represents support to human rights defenders, civil society organizations and vulnerable groups in protecting their right to privacy, as stated in the release of the Local Anti-Trafficking Team of the City of Vranje.

More information on the event can be found via the following links: