THB for organ removal

human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal

While organ trade (payments for organs) is a separate act from human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal (exploitation), organ trade can become human trafficking if a person is coerced, deceived or otherwise exploited for his or her organs. Trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal (THBOR) is prohibited worldwide, yet it occurs in countries across the globe.

This crime was first defined and prohibited by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000) (also known as the Palermo Protocol)

Article 3 of this Protocol defines the crime as follows:

"Trafficking in human beings" shall mean 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 the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs [...]."

THBOR is also defined by the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (Article 4).


Selected reading

  • UNODC (2015). Assessment Toolkit. Trafficking in Persons for the Purpose of Organ Removal. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Vienna, Austria. Available at
  • Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings (2012). Human trafficking for the purpose of the removal of organs and forced commercial surrogacy. The Hague: BNRM. Available at


Empirical studies