After long and intense discussion, the plenum on Friday unanimously approved a bill allowing the prosecution of people requesting, receiving, and/or using the services of a victim of human trafficking.
The amendment to the law on preventing and combatting human trafficking and victim protection of 2014, tabled by Diko MP Christiana Erotokritou, sought to penalise clients without mitigating factors.
Clients had until now been protected by a provision of the law which required evidence to establish reasonable suspicion that a client knew they were exploiting a victim of human trafficking, which was often difficult to prove, making it impossible to hold them responsible.
An amendment tabled by Edek MP Kostis Efstathiou, which sought to transfer to the defendant the burden of proving he was not aware that he was receiving services from a victim of human trafficking, or whether this victim was underage, was rejected by the majority of the plenum.
The legislation, after three years of vacillation among the House human rights committee, essentially removed from the existing legislation the condition of the need to establish reasonable suspicion, due to which there have been no convictions so far of those exploiting the victims of sex trafficking.
The approved law also provides for an increase in penalties involving human trafficking, the trafficking and exploitation of human organs, the exploitation of persons at work, the sexual exploitation of adults, the trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors.