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U.N. and NATO peace troops fuel traffic in women and girls.

NEW YORK -- U.N. and NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo are fueling a human trafficking industry that sexually exploits women and girls as young as 11, according to a report released by Amnesty International.

The report, titled "So Does It Mean That We Have The Rights?" Protecting The Human Rights of Women And Girls Trafficked for Forced Prostitution in Kosovo, asserts that after 1999, when 40,000 Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops and hundreds of U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) personnel arrived in the breakaway Serb province, "a small-scale local market for prostitution was transformed into a large-scale industry based on trafficking predominantly run by organized criminal networks."

International personnel make up about 20 percent of those using the trafficked women and girls, Amnesty said.

"Women and girls are sold into slavery. They are threatened, beaten, raped and effectively imprisoned by their owners. With clients including international police and troops, the girls and women are often too afraid to escape, and the authorities are failing to help them." Amnesty said. "It is outrageous that the very same people who are there to protect these women and girls are using their position and exploiting them instead--and they are getting away with it."

The group expressed special concern that girls under 18 make up 15 to 20 percent of the women working in Kosovo's bars. Most of the women and girls reportedly come from Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, lured by promises of jobs in the West only to find themselves sold several times in transit for prices ranging from $50 to $3,500. Some are then sold to rings in Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. An increasing number of women and girls come from within Kosovo itself.

Amnesty is calling on Unites Nations and NATO and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo to crack down on the trafficking rings and to protect victims of trafficking instead of exploiting or persecuting them. The group also called on the United Nations and NATO to ensure that all military and civilian peacekeepers--who enjoy general immunity from prosecution--suspected of criminal participation in trafficking are brought to justice.

U.N. peacekeepers have been accused of fueling trafficking in the Balkans before. In October 2000, former U.N. police officer Kathryn Bolkovac, an employee of the private security firm DynCorp, told superiors that U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia were using prostitutes as young as 15 and were failing to intervene in the abuse of the women. She also accused DynCorp employees of running a prostitution ring. Bolkovac was fired and awarded $177,000 after a British court found she was wrongly terminated.
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Title Annotation:Child & Family
Publication:Community Action
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 17, 2004
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