Topic Submissions

Non-Criminalisation of Victims of Trafficking in Persons — Principles, Promises, and Perspectives


  • Andreas Schloenhardt
  • Rebekkah Markey-Towler



Victim protection is one of the key objectives of international and domestic efforts against trafficking in persons. Existing legal instruments contain a range of mechanisms to protect the rights of victims of trafficking, providing them with material assistance, counselling, and shielding them from coercion, threats, and harm by their traffickers. An additional, more contentious protection mechanism is the principle of noncriminalisation which serves to protect victims from prosecution for offences which they may have committed during the course of their trafficking experience. The rationale of this principle is to recognise that victims often have little choice but to engage in criminal conduct during their trafficking situation and to encourage victims to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation of their traffickers. This article examines the background and rationale of this principle, analyses existing and proposed expressions of this principle, and develops ideas and recommendations for further debate and developments in this field.