No. XXVIII (2006)

Victimological Picture of Human Trafficking and Slavery in the Light of International Law and Polish Penal Law

Olga Sitarz
University of Silesia in Katowice
Anna Sołtysiak-Blachnik
University of Silesia in Katowice

Published 2006-01-29


  • human trafficking,
  • slavery,
  • victimology,
  • international law,
  • Polish penal law

How to Cite

Sitarz, O., & Sołtysiak-Blachnik, A. (2006). Victimological Picture of Human Trafficking and Slavery in the Light of International Law and Polish Penal Law. Archives of Criminology, (XXVIII), 367–374.


In order to understand the essence of the crime, two issues have to be taken into account: not only do we analyse features of the perpetrator, but also the victim’s behaviour. Both measures have to be recognised in the light of their mutual relations. In such a case, victimology is instrumental for criminology. It answers the fundamental question: who and why becomes a victim of a crime? It is victimology that draws our attention to a post-crime victimisation problem in the psychological, social and legal aspects. These issues are particularly vital in the case of human trafficking. First, the victim of the crime has to be defined. Over the centuries, the word ‘victim’ came to have an additional meaning. Nowadays, the legal definition of a victim in many countries typically includes the following: it is a person who suffered direct or threatened physical, emotional or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of a crime. In the Polish legal system, a legal definition of a victim is given in the Polish Charter of Victims’ Rights, whereas the Polish penal law speaks of an aggrieved party and defines it in Article 49 of the Criminal Procedure Code. However, one fact draws our attention. The aggrieved or those objectively recognised as aggrieved do not agree with such a qualification. Let us take a closer look at the reasons why they see themselves in a different role. There is no doubt that one of the reasons is the fact that victims are often qualified as persons offending the law, as criminals. Another problem, is the victims’ return to their previous life situation, which had led them to being recruited by a human trafficker. We also need to point out that the relations between human traffickers and their victims are extremely complex. However, the key issue is that there is an agreement for a crime. The decision-making processes have to be analysed. The victims of human trafficking find themselves in a situation where they have a considerable limitation of free decision making. One of the major examples reflecting these problems that always takes place in a compulsory situation in the wide sense of this expression is job undertaking which leads to the abuse of the potential worker’s situation. A very specific example is a job agency. The question that appears is when we should speak of an unlawfully acting job agent, and when we can start calling this human trafficking? Is every illegal job agency dealing with human trafficking? What is the difference between these two? And finally when does a worker become a victim and an aggrieved party? What types of slavery and slaves exist today?

  • bounded labour affects at least 20 milion people around the world. People become bounded labourers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicines for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work overtime, seven days a week, up to 365 days a year. They receive basic food and shelter as ‘payment’ for their work, but may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for another generation;
  • eaily and forced marriage affects women and girls who are married without choice and are forced into lives of servitude often accompanied by physical violence;
  • forced labour affects people who are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work usually under threat of violence or other penalties;
  • slavery by descent is where people are either born into a slave class or are from a group that the society views as suited to be used as slave labour;
  • trafficking involves the transport and/or trade of people: ‘woman, children and men’, from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into slavery conditions;
  • worst forms of child labour affects an estimated 179 million children around the world in work that is harmful to their health and welfare. Children work on the land, in households as domestic workers, in factories making products such as matches, fireworks and glassware, on the streets as beggars, in the outdoor industry, brick kilns, mines, construction sector, in bars, restaurants and tourist establishments, in sexual exploitation, as soldiers.

It seems that pursuant to the Employment and Unemployment Countering Act (Ustawa o zatrudnieniu i przeciwdziałaniu bezrobociu) a model contrary to the one in the act can create a criminological model of modern human trafficking. It would be then running a business to gain financial benefits in the way that the businessperson exploits the position of the aggrieved party and provides the future employer with employees. The latter group, however, even if agreeing to move abroad, becomes completely dependant on the employer which is often combined with a deprivation of liberty, because they have no possibility to choose their place of staying or withdraw from the previous agreement. A number of international regulations, e.g. the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime of 2000, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography of 2000, the Slavery Convention of 1926 together with a Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery dated l956 show, that the issue under discussion still remains a contemporary problem, and needs regulations aiming at finding relevant solutions. There can be no doubts in the light of the nullum crimen sine lege certa that a precise description of the crime is essential. Only a precise definition of a separate crime of human trafficking will enable to recognise the scope of the problem and will create internationally accepted circumstances to overcome it. Such a definition must include at least:

  • acts: recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person;
  • means: threat to use or the use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or a position of vulnerability;
  • purposes: forced labour or services, slavery slavery-like practices or servitude.

Everyone, government and non-governmental organisations, must focus on the crime which must be precisely described including a detailed description of a victim. It is highly urgent and important to harmonise all legislative measures in order to prevent human trafficking, which would guarantee an effective protection of victims and prosecution of criminals.


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