chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
May 14, 2024

ABA ROLI Conducts Two Judicial Training Seminars on the Crime of Human Trafficking in Colombia

Human trafficking is a crime that affects millions of people around the world, and Colombia is no stranger to this unfortunate reality. As part of its Cartagena Free of Human Trafficking program, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has played a crucial role in judicial training for this crime.

Photos from the judicial training seminars

Photos from the judicial training seminars

November 2023 and February 2024, Colombia

Two recent seminars, held on November 23, 2023, on the "Interpretation and Application of Law and Jurisprudence on Human Trafficking" and on February 19, 2024, on the "International Perspective Based on Human Trafficking Cases Prosecuted in the United States," have highlighted the importance of strengthening the competencies of judicial officials in Colombia. These events, designed by national and international experts, brought together judges and magistrates from Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta—cities where the incidence of human trafficking is of high concern.

Funded by the US Department of State, the program’s main objective to strengthen the skills of judicial officials in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking. The seminars are an integral part of this initiative, providing participants with up-to-date knowledge and practical tools to effectively address this crime.

These training spaces not only offer theoretical knowledge, but also provide an opportunity for international and local experts to share personal experiences and best practices. Judicial training is fundamental because it ensures that judges and magistrates are up-to-date in terms of legislation, jurisprudence, and legal practices. This guarantees impartiality and efficiency in the administration of justice, strengthens the rule of law, and promotes confidence in the Judicial System; fundamental pillars of ABA ROLI's work. 

The sessions included the participation of international experts such as Judge Margaret McKeown (United States), Judge Virginia Kendall (United States), Judge Juan Carlos Acevedo (Colombia), Dr. Daniel Soto Betancourt (Chile) and Dr. Luisa Samaniego (Colombia). They discussed topics such 1) the evolution of the crime of trafficking in persons (TIP) and its general aspects in Colombia and the international context; 2) international instruments to combat TIP and their particular structures; 3) a comparative analysis of the judicialization of the crime of human trafficking in the United States; 4) the challenges that the internet presents for this crime; and 5) a victim-centered approach. These topics are fundamental to update and improve the knowledge and skills of judges and magistrates in the prosecution of the crime of TIP.

Most notably, the second judicial training seminar included a face-to-face session with valuable interventions by the Magistrate of the Superior Council of the Judiciary, Gloria Stella López; and the President of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, Magistrate Diego Corredor, who emphasized the contributions of Colombian jurisprudence to the crime of human trafficking. 

In this session, experts and participants exchanged lessons learned and successful human trafficking cases prosecuted in the United States. For example, they delved into the panorama of the crime in this country, related crimes, traffickers’ use of digital platforms to recruit victims, and traffickers' relationship with organized crime. 

These seminars are a part of a four-part judicial training module that ABA ROLI will conduct throughout 2024 and that will contribute to the program objectives by comprehensively addressing the training needs identified by our organization in coordination with the Superior Council of the Judiciary. These objectives include: 1) recognizing the importance of trauma-informed care and avoiding re-victimization of victims and witnesses in hearings; 2) understanding the significance of staying updated on the judicialization of TIP considering new methods of recruiting victims for exploitation in digital environments; 3) analyzing the similarities and differences in the human trafficking laws between the United States and Colombia; and 4) making judicial decisions that demonstrate empathy and understanding of the vulnerable conditions of victims and survivors of human trafficking. Therefore, these comprehensive seminars will contribute decisively to strengthening the cognitive skills of participants regarding basic and specialized knowledge related to the crime of trafficking in persons.

The completion of both seminars in the structured judicial training model indicates significant progress in achieving the aforementioned program objectives. The seminars provided judges with an in-depth understanding of the complexity and gravity of human trafficking, and the training equips them to identify warning signs, grasp the contributing factors to trafficking, and comprehend its profound impact on survivors and society overall.  Likewise, analysis of judicial cases offered judges insights into the practical application of human trafficking laws in different countries, enhancing their comprehension of the legal and factual obstacles encountered in prosecuting such cases, and enabling them to learn from past judicial rulings. Judges also developed a deeper understanding of how online sexual exploitation operates and how digital platforms can facilitate such crimes. This includes staying abreast of current trends and technologies utilized by traffickers.  Finally, through training in trauma-informed approaches, judges enhanced their understanding of the needs and experiences of human trafficking victims. This involves recognizing the impact of trauma on victims' engagement in legal proceedings and ensuring they receive sensitive and empathetic treatment throughout and after the legal processes.

Undoubtedly, this judicial training process promoted by ABA ROLI in coordination with the Superior Council of the Judiciary of Colombia will allow judges and magistrates to have more tools to incorporate fundamental elements of international law, further understand national and international jurisprudence, and link mutual legal assistance as a relevant element to the challenges faced in their judicial work for the prosecution of the crime of human trafficking, while using the successful prosecution of cases in the United States as a reference.

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Latin America and the Caribbean.