Mending the Protection and Prosecution Divide: Looking at Saudi Arabia Human Trafficking Flaws and Possibilities


Despite its storied existence, public concern for human trafficking is only a recent phenomenon. Growing demand for the protection of victims of both sex and labor trafficking has meant the relatively recent promulgation of anti-trafficking legislation, on a national and international scale. At the global level, the United Nation’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons promotes a three prong approach: prevention, protection, and prosecution. Unfortunately, prosecution and protection are concepts at odds, forcing policymakers to strike a balance, which typically encourages the former to the detriment of the latter. At the crux of this tension is the concept of revictimization, also known as retraumatization or secondary victimization, which is “victimization occurring at different points in time” or trauma caused by reliving an event. The unfortunate reality is that successful prosecution of traffickers requires the victims to testify during trial. Counterproductively, victims’ embedded distrust of the judicial system, their fear of retaliation against themselves or their families, and the potential for retraumatization that can occur by reliving their experiences through testimony makes victim participation a problem. However, successfully combatting this crime requires both victim protection and prosecution of offenders. The key is determining how these pieces fit together. The author posits that with adequate protection, victims will be properly incentivized to participate in the prosecution of their traffickers because the law will offer provisions to quell their fears above while encouraging such involvement. To better understand this dilemma in a real world setting, this Note examines the state of the human trafficking problem in Saudi Arabia in Part II. It reviews the human trafficking decree and other related legislation of Saudi Arabia, focusing on its lack of victim protection and prosecution provisions.


Human Trafficking, Saudi Arabia, International Law, Revictimization



Sarah Zimmerman (Washington University School of Law, St. Louis)



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