Amnesty: Israel failing to deal with white-slave trade
By Dan Izenberg and Heidi J. Gleit
Friday, May 19 2000
JERUSALEM POST (May 19) - Israel has failed to take adequate measures against human rights abuses of women who have been brought here and forced to provide sexual services, Amnesty International charged.
"This is so," a special Amnesty report on the trafficking of women from the former Soviet Union said, "even though many of them have been subjected to human rights abuses such as enslavement or torture, including rape and other forms of sexual abuse, by traffickers, pimps, or others involved in Israel's sex industry."
Amnesty International also criticized Israel for not providing a procedure to grant asylum to women who have been smuggled into the country often on the basis of false promises of work having nothing to do with sex.
Fighting the trade in women and bringing foreign women here to work as prostitutes is a priority for the Israel Police, but it is a very difficult phenomenon to fight, police investigations head Cmdr. Yossi Sedbon said yesterday.
One of the main problems is that there is not a law against selling women, he explained, adding that he is aware of the initiatives to pass such a law and hopes they are successful.
Justice Minister Yossi Beilin told Amnesty International representatives yesterday that Deputy Attorney-General Yehudit Karp is preparing an amendment to the Penal Law which would address the trafficking phenomenon and provide immunity for trafficked women. He predicted that the legislation would be presented to the Knesset at its winter session.
According to Amnesty International, hundreds of women are brought to Israel from the former Soviet Union every year.
According to Amnesty International, Israel is bound by international law and by international covenants that it has signed to stamp out the sex trafficking.
Police are arresting suspects on related charges such as kidnapping, pimping, raping, and assaulting the women, Sedbon said.
The other major problem is that the women are scared to file police complaints and testify against the pimps, he said. Since most of them are in the country illegally, they are scared to approach police. Fear of reprisal by the pimps further paralyzes them. Police try to get around this both by promising to protect complainants and by initiating operations to collect evidence against and raid brothels, he said.
An additional complication is that prosecutors need the women who complain to testify in the court cases against the pimps, which can be months after the initial complaint is filed. Since the women are here illegally and there is a chance that the pimps will harm them if they are left to their own devices here, they have often ended up sitting in jail until the trial is completed.
Sedbon said that they now try to send the women home and bring them back here for the trial.
Sedbon declined to comment on the complaints filed against Afula police chief Ch.-Supt. Shlomo Marmelstein and Tel Aviv police chief Cmdr. Shlomo Aharonishky for not acting against the problem, saying he could not comment on specific cases.
Sedbon emphasized that the issue is a priority for police and that each police district's serious crimes division is dealing with the problem.
Statistics police released earlier this year show an increase in the number of cases opened against pimps: 279 in 1997; 370 in 1998; and 506 in 1999.
Sedbon also said that only a minority of the foreign women working here as prostitutes are kidnapped and forced into prostitution.