Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where Is Justice For Victims? by Iana Matei as told to Pam Pyne

Judge (noun)—arbiters of justice

Some people ask: "If you work in Romania, why are you writing to people from other countries?
I write because I want those who don’t live here to become aware of what is happening to our girls.  Some people say, “Iana, it’s so corrupt in Romania. If it’s so difficult to get a trafficker prosecuted and actually put into prison, why don’t you go somewhere else where the legal system supports anti-trafficking work and where you could be more effective?”
Change won’t come if you focus on some place where you can put more bad guys behind bars for the sake of having good outcomes. And yes, I said bad guys. These guys are bad. There’s nothing politically correct about human trafficking, so I don’t apologize for the label.
In Romania, we need judges who are trained in human trafficking laws. In the current system, judges don’t have specialties—the same judge who decides a divorce case one day, hands down a decision in a human trafficking case the next. The defense lawyers on the other hand are trained in every nuance of the law and they take advantage of what they know.
This makes judges hesitant to decide in human trafficking cases. They put off making  decisions and the lawyer keeps asking for continuances until the three-year time limitation has passed. If the case hasn't been settled within three years, the trafficker walks not because there's no evidence against him, and not because a girl isn’t willing to testify but because the judge stalled hoping that the next time a case comes up it will be given to another judge.
The situation leaves the girls from the shelter in a very vulnerable position: there is no reassurance that testifying will put her trafficker behind bars and yet, without testifying, there’s very little chance he would ever be convicted. It makes me angry to see how frightened a girl is when she learns that her pimp is loose and he wants to kill her. 
I'm writing to let you know how little "justice" these girls have access to. The system does not do what it is supposed to. If these girls are to get the protection they need to regain a sense of dignity and create opportunities to work and live, someone else is going to have to stand in and provide it.