Dr. Roza Pati
Professor of Law & Executive Director, LL.M./J.S.D. Program in
Intercultural Human Rights
Director, Human Trafficking Academy
Member, Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace, The Vatican
Q: How many years have you been teaching International, Human Rights, and Human Trafficking Law at St. Thomas University School of Law?
A: I have been at St. Thomas Law since 2002 as Executive Director of the Graduate Program in Intercultural Human Rights, a program that offers a Master of Laws degree as well as a Doctorate of the Science of Law. Since 2004, I have also been teaching and now I am a tenured Professor of Law. I have taught courses such as International Law, Human Rights Law, Human Trafficking Law, Human Rights and Terrorism, and Health and Human Rights. I am also Faculty Advisor to the renowned Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, a journal that provides a forum for dialogue between scholars and practitioners of various legal cultures in the field of international law generally, and human rights in particular, with the goal to develop effective solutions to global problems, approximating a world public order of human dignity.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the work you do pertaining Human Trafficking?
A: Well, at St. Thomas Law we have undertaken robust work that relates to combating modern slavery—human trafficking — both academically and practically. Since 2004, we have hosted, organized and participated in numerous symposia, roundtables, conferences and training sessions on multiple issues related to human trafficking, both in our country and abroad: from Vatican City to Bogota, to Bucharest, to Siena, to Monteria, to Vienna, to Buenos Aires, to mention but a few of the venues. Under my direction and guidance, at St. Thomas Law we have developed TheHumanTraffickingAcademy,aproject which was initiallyfundedbythe U.S. DepartmentofJustice,BureauofJustice Assistance. The Academy aimsat conducting education, outreach and research inthefield of human trafficking.Inparticular,itoffersspecializedtrainingandtechnicalassistancetolawenforcement,lawyers, healthcareproviders,teachers,students, researchers,religiousinstitutionsandthecommunityatlargeonissues relatedtothecrimeoftraffickinginpersons. I am happy to note that we are offering a one week intensive Academy on human trafficking this summer, July 28 to August 1, 2014, and I invite all those interested to consider joining us in this most exciting event. Information on the Academy and registration can be accessed through our Academy website at: www.humantraffickingacademy.org .
Q. What motivated you to speak out against Human Trafficking?
A: My interest started early on, in 1994-1995, back in my homeland by birth, the Eastern European country of Albania. I was a public official, President of the Council of the District of Lezhe, in North-Western Albania. At that time, right after the fall of Communism in my country, with the opening of the borders and the freedom of movement, people started to migrate to Western Europe in large numbers. Unfortunately, a number of women and young girls were lured or forced to migrate to various countries to be exploited, mostly in commercial sexual industry. Young girls who were aspiring for a better life were actually defrauded into commercial sexual exploitation in the brothels and on the streets of Western Europe. This phenomenon shocked the conscience and the moral code of our communities and it is since then that I started doing work to fight human trafficking. I had the chance to go onto the streets of Rome, Turin and Milan, with the Italian police late at night, and was shocked by the reality of Albanian girls exploited by organized crime. That was the start of my modest journey in combating human trafficking. I have not stopped since.
Q: What are some of your most valued professional achievements?
A: In my 26 years of work experience, God has blessed me with many professional achievements, and it is indeed hard to choose, from amongst such experiences, the ones to be most valued. In a way, I feel great about all my professional life from my early start as a teacher to an elected public official in various capacities, including Member of Parliament and Cabinet Member, Secretary of State for Youth and Women, to officer and consultant of prestigious international NGOs such as International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mercy Corps and OXFAM Great Britain, to Professor of Law and Executive Director of Intercultural Human Rights and Director of Human Trafficking Academy at St. Thomas University School of Law, to Member of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican. And, the greatest blessing that permeates all my professional life is working with people and for people, particularly those marginalized. As a proud citizen of the United States, my adopted homeland, I have joined those who strive for human rights and human dignity world-wide. In this great republic of ours, there are endless opportunities to serve and love others, to care for your neighbor– it is indeed a most cherished American value, as is the other distinctly American value of meritocracy.
Q: Can you tell me about your experience serving as a Member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, at the Vatican?
A. I am indeed humbled by my appointment by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am presently the only U.S. Member of the Council, and I do consider it a great responsibility. The Council is uniquely positioned to promote peace and justice in the world, all in light of the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church. The work of the Council focuses on action-oriented studies to promote justice, particularly social justice, social and human development, eradication of poverty; work for peace and international security; focus on the dignity of the human person as the foundation for the protection and promotion of universal, interdependent and inalienable human rights. As a member of the Council, I am invited to discern the signs of our times: to raise issues of concern in our Western Hemisphere and to offer ideas and explore solutions to the problems. One particular issue that I am bringing up for deeper discussion is the role of religious institutions of all faiths, in eliminating human trafficking. A large part of my scholarship over many years has been dedicated to looking into human trafficking as a major violation of human rights, and to the duties of nation-states to combat human trafficking locally and globally. I am thrilled to see our Holy Father Pope Francis putting an emphatic priority to the de facto abolishment of modern-day slavery, and I am very much optimistic that his inter-faith initiative will yield great results.
Q: What are some things being done to combat human trafficking in the United States?
A: For over a decade and a half, combating human trafficking has been a policy priority in the United States. We have a good federal law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000 (as reauthorized and amended in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2011), which focuses not only on the prosecution of the trafficking crime, but also on the protection of victims and preventative efforts. This legislation has resulted in numerous prosecutions of traffickers in almost every state, and the rescue and protection of numerous victims U.S. and foreign-born victims. We have a robust civil society, media, academic, NGO and religious sector that contribute to combating human trafficking, by providing services for the victims, conducting research and engaging in advocacy. Lately, there is also a tendency to work with the private sector in focusing on corporate social responsibility and tracing the supply chain, so that the Americans consume products that have been manufactured by slave-free labor.
Q: In what ways does human trafficking affect interstate and foreign commerce?
A: Indeed, in many ways it does, and it might get too technical to explain it in legal terminology. To put it in brief, though human trafficking is not premised on movement, it does nevertheless involve movement of people in its transnational crime dimension, whether perpetrated by organized crime or by single individuals. The traffickers recruit people abroad mostly by fraud, but also force, transfer them across national and state borders and then they coerce them into forced labor or commercial sex, putting victims in slave-like conditions and controlling them as if they were property items. For instance, prostitution in American cities encourages a market for trafficking people from abroad, bringing them into the U.S., clandestinely or through visa fraud, advertising them all over the internet, coordinate their “services” by using cell phones etc.—this way clearly affecting inter-state and foreign commerce. But, even purely local activity of human trafficking, could, in the aggregate, frustrate the broader regulation for protection of interstate commerce, and human trafficking, in almost all cases, affects interstate commerce in one way or another.
Q: Why do you think forced labor thrives — a criminal activity that is almost completely invisible to people in the U.S?
A: Mainly for two reasons: first, lack of awareness in the broader community, and the resulting inability to identify trafficking activity; and second, the existence of a constant demand for cheap labor, cheap products and services, as well as the adult entertainment industry.
Q: What are some things people can do to combat human trafficking?
A: In general, the public and private sector has to work to reduce the vulnerability of those strata of the population that provide the readily available supply. In particular, each one of us should become aware of the fact that there are slaves around us, and that they may be the ones who produced the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and perform the cleaning services we request at times. So, my call would be to educate ourselves about human trafficking: join or create an awareness club, watch a documentary about human trafficking, advocate that your school create modules related to human trafficking, contact your church, or temple, or mosque and ask that they organize events to raise awareness of human trafficking. One such venue where you one can get more information about human trafficking, training videos for various professionals and community at large, as well as reference to various resources is the website of our Human Trafficking Academy at www.humantraffickingacademy.org . I thank you for the opportunity to share these few words with you and your audience.