Convictions in Landmark Argentina Sex Trafficking Case Blow Against Impunity

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Ten people have been convicted in an iconic human trafficking case in Argentina that first put a human face to the widespread crime and now has struck a blow against the impunity that surrounds it.

Six men and four women received sentences of between ten and 22 years for the kidnapping and forced prostitution of Marita Veron, who disappeared in 2002, reported Clarin.

The verdict marks a turnaround from the first trial in the case, in which 13 people were absolved of the same crime in December 2012, sparking street protests attended by thousands of people across the country.

The case rose to prominence as a result of the tireless efforts of Veron’s mother to track down her daughter. Susana Trimarco spent years trawling the brothels of Argentina posing as a former prostitute looking to recruit new girls, and later became an internationally recognized campaigner against sexual exploitation. As a result of her work, dozens of victims were rescued and legislative reforms were passed that made human trafficking a recognized crime.

Veron has never been found. Some accounts unearthed by Trimarco indicate she may be dead, while others suggest she may be in Spain.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Marita Veron case, and her mother’s campaigning, played a critical role in exposing the horrors of human trafficking in Argentina. The revelations of the brutal treatment of girls and women at the hands of sex traffickers that emerged from Trimarco’s investigations and the tragic personal narrative behind the case shocked the country into confronting a major issue that had previous remained in the shadows.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking

The widespread outrage at the acquittal of those accused in the case in 2012 also turned the spotlight on the reasons why traffickers enjoy such high impunity levels. Civil society groups and political organizations made allegations of complicity between the traffickers and judicial officials, and complained of serious failures in the way the case was investigated and prosecuted.

The fact that some of those involved in the case have now been prosecuted and convicted is an important symbolic blow against impunity. However, while Argentina has made significant strides in tackling human trafficking, according to the US State Department (pdf), convictions remain a rarity, with just 17 recorded in 2012, and investigations are still hampered by corruption and a lack of coordination between security forces.

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