Shortage of organs leading to increased human trafficking, warns UN expert

NEW YORK (28 October 2013) – A growing number of people are exploited and compelled by need or by force to provide organs for transplantation to people within their own countries or abroad, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, warned on Friday.

“The root cause of trafficking in persons for the removal of organs is an acute shortage of organs for transplantation worldwide, and a mismatch between the growing demand for organ transplants and the strict limits set on available supplies,” the expert said in her annual report* to the UN General Assembly.

The Special Rapporteur also stressed that available information on trafficking in persons for the removal of organs is incomplete and often unverified. “This lack of information mainly results from the clandestine nature of the trafficking and from the fact that victims have little opportunities and incentives to denounce such violations,” she said.

“Recipients are generally wealthy while victims are often poor, unemployed and with low levels of education. They can be easily deceived about the nature of the transaction and its potential impact,” the human rights expert noted.

Case studies examined by the Special Rapporteur show that victims, particularly those from Eastern Europe, South America and Asia, are lured into selling their organs on the promise of large amounts of money that are almost never paid in full. The study also shows that post-operative medical care offered to the victims is often inadequate. Many suffer from social exclusion and face direct threats aimed at silencing them.

Ms. Ezeilo drew especial attention to the weaknesses in the laws and policies on trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal, including at the international level. “Inadequate laws not only prevent strong national responses, they also inhibit international cooperation,” she warned.

States should increase their efforts to meet their international obligation to stop all forms of trafficking in persons, including for the purpose of organ removal, the UN expert said. They should review their laws and strengthen their policies to prevent violations, prosecute offenders and protect and assist victims. “Any appropriate response needs to adopt a victim-focused approach,” the Special Rapporteur insisted.

Ms. Ezeilo called on States to prohibit, absolutely and unconditionally, the removal of organs from prisoners. She also urged medical personnel to notify cases or potential cases of trafficking in persons for removal of organ with appropriate attention to issues of confidentiality and risks.

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo (Nigeria) started her mandate as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children in August 2008. She is independent from any government and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Ezeilo is a human rights lawyer and professor at the University of Nigeria. She has served in various governmental capacities and consulted for various international organizations. She has published extensively on a variety of topics, including human rights, women’s rights, and Sharia law. Learn more, log on to:

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