UN chief: Human trafficking a problem in many conflict zones

Outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called on all countries to investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking and said the most vulnerable victims are women, children and refugees caught up in conflict areas around the globe.

Ban, addressing the 15-member Security Council during an open debate on human trafficking in conflict zones, said extremist groups from the Islamic State to Boko Haram and al-Shabab traffic in persons, especially women and girls, as a weapon of terror and source of revenue.

"We have to fight trafficking for the sake of the victims," Ban said. "When we do, we will also decrease funding for terrorists — and make everyone safer."

Ban, whose term as top U.N. official ends Dec. 31, spoke as the Security Council considers its first-ever resolution on the topic of human trafficking, which seeks to strengthen the United Nation's ability to counter the phenomenon and bolster the international community's ability to respond to it.

Yuri Fedotov, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said the building blocks for fighting international human trafficking can be found in the U.N.'s Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on the practice, which was adopted by the General Assembly and went into effect in 2003.

He said trafficking victims have been detected in 106 different countries and territories worldwide. The good news, he said, is that 158 countries have criminalized most forms of the practice in line with the protocol.

"There's no single measure, no one step to address this problem alone," Fedotov said.

Ameena Saeed Hasan campaigns for international help for the thousands of Yazidi women and girls who have been taken into captivity by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.

Hasan told the council that the extremist group has abducted 6,500 Yazidi girls and women in the last 2 1/2 years.

"They are sold in slave markets, subject to sexual slavery. A girl of 12 years is sold for a pack of cigarettes," she said. "We cannot remain silent to these horrible crimes."

The Spain-sponsored draft resolution calls upon member states to do more to fight human trafficking. It asks that those countries that have not yet done so to fully implement the U.N.'s trafficking in persons protocol as well as investigate and dismantle trafficking networks.