Stewart Bell   National Post   18-May-2000   Israel still enslaves Slavic women
"Many women are subjected to violence, including rape.  Yet most of the people who commit such human rights abuses are never brought to justice by the Israeli government." Amnesty International
The National Post article below is available online.  See also the Ha'aretz report of 18-May-2000.  An Amnesty International news release also outlines this report.

Thursday, May 18, 2000

Abuse of imported prostitutes ignored: Amnesty
Police should target pimps and not their victims, report says

Stewart Bell
National Post

ISRAEL - A new report by Amnesty International accuses Israel of failing to protect the human rights of women and girls imported from the former Soviet Union to work in the country's booming sex trade.

Recruited in Eastern Europe by underworld agents, the women are treated as commodities, bought and sold by pimps and traffickers for thousands of dollars and held in debt slavery, said the report to be released today.

"They are locked up in apartments and have their passports and travel tickets confiscated," it said.  "Many women are subjected to violence, including rape.  Yet most of the people who commit such human rights abuses are never brought to justice by the Israeli government."

Amnesty said it was concerned that governments are treating the global phenomenon of trafficking in women simply as a criminal and immigration problem rather than a human rights abuse.

Many women trafficked into Israel end up detained in police lock-ups or at the Neve Tirza prison following raids on brothels and massage parlours, and are rarely released on bail pending deportation, said the report.

Canada, which is playing an emerging role in the international human trafficking industry, has faced similar accusations.  Advocacy groups want police to target the traffickers rather than the women and children, who are often coerced into prostitution and crime.

During a year-long operation called Project Almonzo, police in the Toronto area have laid more than 650 charges against women and club owners.  The women are mostly from Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Authorities view the trade in women as a result of globalization, which has been accompanied by an increase in economic migration from poor to developed nations.  A report published by the Central Intelligence Agency estimated up to two million women and children are trafficked around the world annually.

The Amnesty report cites the case of Anna, a 31-year-old Russian physics teacher "lured" to Israel to work in the sex industry for 20 times her teaching salary.  Her passport was taken and she was locked in an apartment with six others, the report said.  She was sold at auction twice, the second time for US$10,000.

Tatiana, another woman cited in the report, came to Israel from Belarus to work in a hotel to help support her mother and six-year-old son, but was forced to work in a brothel until it was raided by police.

The human rights group acknowledges that Israel has taken steps to improve the situation, including the passage of legislation in March that states that all women are entitled to protection from violence and trafficking.  The justice ministry is also drafting a provision to criminalize the buying and selling of people, the report said.

But Amnesty says the government still fails to protect trafficked women from human rights abuses.  The rights group said Israel should work more closely with the former Soviet bloc countries and needs a strategy to co-ordinate government agencies to combat abuses.

"Both the government and the traffickers are treating these women as if they do not have human rights.  The authorities have a responsibility to take action to protect these trafficked women from enslavement, imprisonment and violence."

The United Nations Human Rights Committee warned in 1998 that "women brought to Israel for the purposes of prostitution ... are not protected as victims of trafficking but are likely to bear the penalties of their illegal presence in Israel by deportation."