Human Trafficking


Human Trafficking - Research Guide International Law

Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hand of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Scholars and international organisations, even within the UN system itself, looked at human trafficking or trafficking in persons differently depending on whether it was seen as a form of modern-day slavery, illegal migration, forced migration, prostitution or human smuggling. Therefore it wasn’t until 15 november 2000 when the United Nations for the first time in international law defined human trafficking in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (the Trafficking Protocol also called the Palermo Protocol). The Trafficking Protocol supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and entered into force on 25 december 2003.

According to the Trafficking Protocol human trafficking means “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similor to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”. Since the adoption of the Trafficking Protocol a lot of states have enacted antitrafficking laws that generally reflect this broad definition, while international and regional organisations have adopted documents combating trafficking in persons.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Human Trafficking. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's systematic classification → Transnational crime and subject heading (keyword) Human Trafficking are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.


Recent publications

Reference works

Books/Papers (different aspects of trafficking)


  • Beyond Trafficking and Slavering Short Course, ("we have re-edited our publications from the past 18 months into the world’s first open access ‘e-syllabus’ on forced labour, trafficking, and slavery. With 167 contributions from 150 top academics and practitioners, this 900-page, eight-volume set is packed with insights from the some of the best and most progressive scholarship and activism currently available. We have made this free for download, as well as print and classroom ready, with the goal of reaching not only practitioners and students in the global north, but to also reach readers working in organisations and institutions unable to pay for expensive academic journal and subscription services.")

Periodicals, serial publications

Special Issues




Systematic classification → International criminal law

New titles

1. Human Trafficking and Helath
Human Trafficking and Helath / Siân Oram. - Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar Publishing. - Pages 211-229 In: Handbook of Migration and Health / edited by Felicity Thomas, ISBN 9781784714772: (2016), Pages 211-229. - 2016
Keywords: Human trafficking, Health, Sex crimes,

2. Towards a sharp prosecution sword to combat human trafficking: comparing the new South African counter-trafficking law with international prosecution standards
Towards a sharp prosecution sword to combat human trafficking: comparing the new South African counter-trafficking law with international prosecution standards / Beati Kruger In: Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa = ISSN 0010-4051: vol. 49, issue 1, page 53-84. - 2016
Keywords: South Africa, Human trafficking, Transnational crime, Prosecution, Criminal law, International law and national law,

Librarian's choice

  • Dragiewicz, M. (ed.), Global Human Trafficking, Critical Issues and Contexts, London/New York, Routledge, 2015.

    Human trafficking has moved from relative obscurity to a major area of research, policy and teaching over the past ten years. Research has sprung from criminology, public policy, women’s and gender studies, sociology, anthropology, and law, but has been somewhat hindered by the failure of scholars to engage beyond their own disciplines and favoured methodologies. Recent research has begun to improve efforts to understand the causes of the problem, the experiences of victims, policy efforts, and their consequences in specific cultural and historical contexts.

    Global Human Trafficking: Critical issues and contexts foregrounds recent empirical work on human trafficking from an interdisciplinary, critical perspective. The collection includes classroom-friendly features, such as introductory chapters that provide essential background for understanding the trafficking literature, textboxes explaining key concepts, discussion questions for each chapter, and lists of additional resources, including films, websites, and additional readings for each chapter.

    The authors include both eminent and emerging scholars from around the world, drawn from law, anthropology, criminology, sociology, cultural studies, and political science and the book will be useful for undergraduate and graduate courses in these areas, as well as for scholars interested in trafficking.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Elliott, J., The Role of Consent in Human Trafficking, London/New York, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015.

    Human trafficking is consistently featured on the global political agenda. This book examines the trafficking of adult female victims for sexual exploitation, and specifically the understanding of consent and its influence in the identification and treatment of trafficking victims.

    Jessica Elliott argues that when applied to situations of human trafficking, migration and sexual exploitation, the notion of consent presents problems which current international laws are unable to address. Establishing the presence of 'coercion' and a lack of consent can be highly problematic, particularly in situations of human trafficking and exploitative prostitution; activities which may be deemed inherently coercive and problematically clandestine.

    By examining legal definitions of human trafficking in international instruments and their domestic implementation in different countries, the book explores victimhood in the context of exploitative migration, and argues that no clear line can be drawn between those who have been smuggled, trafficked, or 'consensually trafficked' into a situation of exploitation. The book will be great use and interest to students and researchers of migration law, transnational criminal law, and gender studies.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
  • Borg Jansson, D., Modern Slavery : A Comparative Study of the Definition of Trafficking in Persons, Leiden ; Boston : Brill Nijhoff, 2015.

    In Modern Slavery – A Comparative Study of the Definition of Trafficking in Persons Dominika Borg Jansson discusses why, despite international anti-trafficking efforts, there are so few trafficking convictions worldwide. In an easily accessible language, the author explains why international legal harmonization in this area has been difficult. Making use of the concept of legal transplants, Dominika Borg Jansson compares experiences from Sweden, Poland and Russia offering insights into especially Russian legislation that are not widely available. The problems concerning the implementation of the international definition of trafficking are here divided into country-specific challenges and obstacles attributable to the original source. Jansson also addresses the effectiveness of criminalization of trafficking and offers suggestions on how future trafficking legislation might be framed.

    View this title in our link resolver Plinklet



  • Human Trafficking or Smuggling: Guidance Needed?

    On the first of July this year the Netherlands are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the abolishment of slavery. Although slavery has officially been abolished, the modern slave trade, also called human trafficking, is still continuing, not only in the Netherlands but everywere. But what is human trafficking and what is the distinction between trafficking and human smuggling?

    Read more

International Organisations



Research and academia

See also

More Research guides on International Criminal Law

PPL keywords

Other suggestions

Systematic classification → International criminal law