COFS Participates in Special Rapporteur’s Panel on Trafficking in Persons at the 2014 Human Rights Council Meetings, Geneva, Switzerland

13 June, 2014

As the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, brought a close to her term, she recommended issues for the new mandate holder to carry on.  Among these is a strong recommendation for more investigations on trafficking in persons for the removal of organs (TPRO).  COFS Director, Dr. Debra Budiani-Saberi, spoke about this issue and essential next steps to combat TPRO abuses at a panel that the Special Rapporteur hosted at the 2014 Human Rights Council Meetings in Geneva, Switzerland.  Dr. Budiani-Saberi emphasized three key areas that should be advanced: the improvement of data, the advancement of a rights- based approach and the building of capacity for state and civil society actors to identify and assist persons trafficked for the removal of organs and the investigation and prosecution of cases, much as has been done in cases of persons trafficked for labor and sex. COFS Board Member, Dr. Laura Gomez -Mera and COFS Advisor, Dr. Christina Papachristou also attended the meetings in support of COFS initiatives to advance these priorities.

debra speaks at HRChrc meetings



debra, SR and Laura

Deb, Christina and Laura at UN

















United Nations Special Rapporteur Presents Thematic Report on Trafficking in Persons for Removal  of Organs to the UN General Assembly

25 October, 2013 United Nations Special Rapporteur, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, released and presented her thematic report, Trafficking in Persons for the Removal of Organsto the UN General Assembly in New York.   Her report recognizes the abuse as an issue of human rights and human trafficking and highlights state obligations to respond to this issue including “to criminalize trafficking in persons for the purpose of removal of organs as well as attempting, participating in, organizing and directing other persons in the commission of trafficking in persons for the purpose of removal of organs… Other central obligations that derive from both the Protocol and the Convention include an obligation to provide appropriate assistance to and protection of victims, including measures for physical, psychological and social recovery (art. 6); an obligation to establish policies, programmes and other measures to prevent and combat trafficking and protect victims (art. 9); an obligation of cross-border cooperation between law enforcement agencies and an obligation on States to strengthen capacity for such cooperation (art. 10); and an obligation to strengthen border controls to prevent and detect trafficking in persons for the removal of organs (art. 11) ”  COFS considers this a stride for recognizing the issue within a human rights and human trafficking framework and was pleased to be a part of the background preparation of the report. 

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking presents her
report to the UN General Assembly

COFS Director Dr. Debra Budiani-Saberi, UN Special Rapporteur Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo and Human Rights Attorney and Author of OSCE Report on Trafficking in Human Beings for the Purpose of Organ Removal Mr. Milbert Shin at the Presentation of the Special Rapporteur's Report to the UN General Assembly

COFS Director Dr. Debra Budiani-Saberi, UN Special Rapporteur Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo and Human Rights Attorney and Author of OSCE Report on Trafficking in Human Beings for the Purpose of Organ Removal Mr. Milbert Shin at the Presentation of the Special Rapporteur’s Report to the UN General Assembly


OSCE Releases Report on Trafficking in Human Beings for the Purpose of Organ Removal 
9 July, 2013
The Office of the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) released a report, Trafficking of Human Beings for the Purpose of Organ Removal in the OSCE region.  The report’s primary author, Mr. Milbert Shin, based the report on cases that have been formally investigated or prosecuted  in the OSCE region. C

The paper suggests a series of steps to prevent this transnational crime including a review of national legislative frameworks to ensure they are adequate to punish all those who are part of the criminal networks; expanding international co-operation to pursue criminals across borders; working with the medical community to prevent unethical behaviour; and co-operating with civil society to better address the physical, psychological and legal needs of victims.

 OSCE report THB-OR coverjpg










COFS-India Obtains Official Registration in India

August, 2013

COFS-India obtained official registration in India that will further enable its work to conduct advocacy, awareness and prevention projects on human trafficking for organ removal.  COFS-India’s Board of Advisors are thrilled about this advancement and are expanding initiatives and partnerships in various additional sites across the country.



Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group Convenes for Five- Year Assessment 

April 12-14, 2013

Seventy members of the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group (DICG) convened in Doha, Qatar to  mark the Fifth Anniversary of the Declaration and to evaluate progress in implementing its Principles and recommended Proposals. The participants were heartened by the steps taken by health authorities in many countries that have prohibited transplant commercialism and have greatly reduced the flow of transplant tourists to sites where organ trafficking, including from executed prisoners, occurs. The Doha participants also commended the adoption in many places of safe, effective, and accountable practices that facilitate meeting the needs of transplant patients while protecting the rights of donors, such as the creation of systems of follow-up care for donors and the development of successful deceased donor programs in a number of countries. It was recognized, however, that many challenges remain, and the participants therefore endorsed the adoption of means of reporting organ trafficking, the development of more complete registries of transplants of all organs from deceased and living donors, increased cooperation with law enforcement authorities combating human trafficking, and the use of international conventions to ensure that organs are obtained and used in an ethical, safe and transparent fashion.  Dr. Debra Budiani-Saberi and intern Katie Findley were pleased to participate and present the development of COFS’ XDOT project.  The Doha Communique captures the meetings’ resolutions, including DICG’s expert review of the case reporting tool.


COFS Speaks to UN Missions

February 14, 2013

COFS Director Debra Budiani-Saberi and Intern Sean Columb were invited to speak at a forum on organ trafficking for the UN Missions in New York organized by the Global Initiatives for Bioethics.  Attending missions included that of Egypt, Serbia, Croatia and others for a panel that consisted of David Rothman, Arthur Caplan and COFS’ Debra Budiani-Saberi and Sean Columb.


COFS invited to share its Expertise on Organ Trafficking at Google Ideas Summit on Illicit Networks 

July 18, 2012

Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas, Organized a Summit on Illicit Networks to address question of how technology could address illicit networks of money laundering and illicit trade in arms, drugs, humans and human organs.  COFS’ Director Debra Budiani-Saberi and Assistant Director, Kabir Karim participated in the three day event in Los Angeles with 230 experts of other areas of illicit networks, survivors and hollywood celebrities.

COFS discussed its development of a data tool to eXpose and Disrupt Organ Trafficking (XDOT) with Google team members in the months before for the Summit.  A Google entrepreneur and engineers expressed arrangements to assist COFS with this tool in the months ahead.  In his keynote address at the event Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, stated:

“In the connected world, vulnerable people will be savvier… Organ harvesters can be named and shamed and brought to justice.”

Kabir Karim – COFS Egypt, Jared Cohen – Google, Debra Budiani-Saberi, COFS USA



COFS-India Expands Identification of Survivors of Organ Trafficking

June 2012

In addition to its field sites of Chennai, Erode, and Pallipalayam, in recent months COFS-India has expanded sites to include areas in and around Kolkatta and Bangalore. Field researchers have identified dozens more survivors in these areas that experienced a commercial kidney removal in a period ranging from recent years to recent months. COFS-India has partnered with CARITAS, Vikasana and People’s Health Forum to identify these survivors and is working to establish medical follow-up, health education on risks/consequences of a commercial organ removal and awareness raising within target communities. COFS-India will launch a detailed report of its evidence-based, victim-centered findings in the Fall 2012.

Father Herman in West Bengal solicited to sell a kidney to feed his family. He was uncompensated for his commercial kidney removal


Father Hermant of CARITAS assists COFS-India to reach out to identify survivors of organ trafficking in Raiganj, West Bengal



COFS Briefs U.S. Congressional Committees -Senate Foreign Relations and the Lantos Commission

23 January, 2012

COFS’ Executive Director, Dr. Debra Budiani-Saberi, delivered briefings on organ trafficking for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and the Lantos Commission on Human Rights. These briefings were conducted with Dr. Francis Delmonico, Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, President-elect of The Transplantation Society, and Advisor to the World Health Organization and with Dr. Monir Moniruzzaman, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University.

The briefing for the SFRC was followed by a panel discussion with participants from the offices of Senator Rubin, Congressman Chris Smith, the International Office of Migration, as well as Nina Bang-Jenson of Public International Law & Policy Group, Hans Hogrefe of Physicians for Human Rights, and Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves, among others.

Read More.


COFS Engages UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking

15, November 2011

COFS Director, Dr. Debra Budiani-Saberi, met with UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo to discuss COFS’ call for better recognition of human rights abuses around human trafficking for organ removal and for investigations on the abuses of African migrants in the Sinai that may include organ trafficking. The Special Rapporteur agreed to the need for further examination of HTOR, for credible investigations in the Sinai and she expressed willingness to bring the collective call for action that COFS has mobilized with NGOs to UN bodies.

UNSR and Debra 15 Nov 2011


COFS calls for Independent Investigations of Abuses of African migrants in the Sinai

1, November 2011

COFS has mobilized the efforts of NGOs that have collected testimonies of African migrants who have experienced or witnessed abuses in the Sinai to call for independent investigations of the allegations of torture, rape, human trafficking for labor, sex and organs and murder that have trickled out of the region for over a year. Read More


COFS-Egypt Continues to Identify Victims of Organ Trafficking

26, November 2010

COFS-Egypt continues to meet recent victims of organ trafficking in Egypt. Special attention has been givenSudanese asylum seekers, many of whom are from Darfur, who have been solicited for a commercial transplant. Some of these victims were solicited in Darfur while brokers have targeted others in Egypt. COFS is making special arrangements for outreach for these victims and preparing a report of its findings.


COFS-India Launches Outreach Programs to Victims in India

8, September 2010

COFS-India launched its outreach programs to serve 800 victims in Chennai, Erode and Pallipalayam. The India team’s Program Manager,Mr. Sundar Thirunavukkarasu, and Lead Field Researcher, Mr Raja Dinesh Kumar, have identified these victims, conducted baseline interviews,and established medical follow-up for them.


After decades of grappling with definitions of death, Egypt passes a law on organ transplantation

16 February, 2010

After many final months of debate, both bodies of Egypt’s legislative branch- the Advisory Council (Maglis El-Shura)and the People’s Assembly (Maglis El-Sha’ab)- passed a law on organ transplantation. The law prohibits organ trafficking and permits organ donation from the deceased.


Emerging Cases of Organ Trafficking in the Middle East Attract Global Attention

12 October, 2009

AlJazeera (English) covers emerging cases of organ trafficking in the Middle East and consults with COFS’ Director about the regional situation.



COFS Announces its Documentary Film – Organs SOS: a plea from the shadowsIn its ongoing efforts to create public awareness about organ trafficking and enhance alternatives of altruistic and deceased donation,COFS announces its documentary film that feature these aims.Click here to view the trailer and read more about the film. Also see:


COFS Opposes Draft Legislation in the U.S. that would Permit Material Compensation for Organ Donation

June 2009

In recent months, Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) has circulated at least five drafts of a proposed bill which would enable U.S.government entities to provide material compensation for organ donation. The current draft of this bill commendably also includes clauses to combat organ trafficking in an effort to distinguish regulated from unregulated organ markets. However, a provision of material compensation to organ “donors” would dissolve a central feature ofthe National Organ Transplantation Act (NOTA) that prohibits the buying and selling of human organs for transplantation. COFS maintains the position that material incentives for organ donation lead to violations of human rights, and present ethical, social, strategic and economic problems.Material incentives inevitably take unfair advantage of the poor and vulnerable who would otherwise not consider resorting to a commercial living organ donation. Employing material inducement to procure organs from a certain segment of a population may also damage society’s trust in medicine and transplantation and simultaneously undermine efforts to secure and enhance altruistic donation. Accordingly, COFS is conducting a campaign to oppose this bill. COFS’ Director Dr. Debra Budiani-Saberi and Board MemberDeborah Golden published a white paper via the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy to elaborate this opposition.



COFS and the American University of Cairo (AUC) Partner to Enhance Civic Engagement in Transplants

COFS and AUC’s have partnered in an effort to enhance civic engagement in improving transplant practices in Egypt.In addition to linking COFS to various support networks, the Gerhart Center is also networking AUC faculty, students and NGO partners to assist withCOFS’ awareness campaign about altruistic and deceased organ donation.


COFS Completes Assessment in Nepal

August 2008

COFS and its partners, the Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS), completed an assessment of organ trafficking and its consequences on commercial living donors (CLDs). The study was conducted in Hokse, a rural village commonly referred to as “kidney village” for its reputation of housing victims of the black market trade in organs.

Like COFS programs elsewhere, COFS and NIDS are using its findings to develop prevention and outreach services for victims in Nepal.

Hokse, a rural village in Nepal, is the site of COFS’ recent assessment on the impact of organ trafficking in Nepal


NIDS Investigators Bishow Gurung (center) and Pramila Yonjan (right) conducted interviews in the homes of CLDs in Hokse (left) – Nepal


COFS Advances it Collaborative Work with the Ulema

June 2008

COFS has advanced collaborative projects with the Ulema(Islamic clerics) to combat organ trafficking.COFS and various groups of ulema are working towards operationalizing the ulema’s influence to create awareness of fatawa (Islamic declarations) thatdeem the buying and selling of organs as haram (sinful) in the Islamic world. Projects are targeted for at-risk communities as well as the general publicto address concerns around organ trafficking and transplants more generally.

Kabir Karim, COFS-Egypt Program Manager, and Sheikh Yasser plan collaboration of COFS with ulema leaders to combat organ trafficking


Representatives Convene and Announce the Istanbul Declaration On Organ Trafficking, Transplant Tourism and Transplant Commercialism.

May 2008

The Transplantation Society (TTS) and International Society of Nephrology (ISN) convened an international summit of 152 participants from78 countries from 30 April to 1 May 2008 in Istanbul, Turkey. Participants included medical and scientific professionals, representatives of governmental and social agencies, social scientists, legal scholars and ethicists. The Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism is the result of these deliberations which received full consensus at the summit. This Declaration calls for a legal and professional framework in each country to govern organ donation and transplantation activities, a transparent regulatory oversight system that ensures donor and recipient safety and enforces the prohibitions of unethical practices. Governments should ensure that the provision of care and follow-up of living donors be no less than the care and attention provided for transplant recipients.Professional societies should not continue to enable membership status for those individuals that violate the principles of the Declaration. Pharmaceutical companies and public and private funding agencies must affirm the Declaration in their consideration of clinical research support. COFS’ Director participated in the Istanbul summit and COFS has employed the Declaration in its work to combat organ trafficking.

Istanbul Group Shot


UN Recognizes Organ Trafficking in its Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking (UNGIFT)

February 2008

The UNODC paid recognition to the trafficking of humans for organs in its recent global forum to Fight Human Trafficking. Although this issue has been included in its Protocol against Human Trafficking, an unprecedented panel was hosted at the Vienna Forum in which experts reviewed various aspects of trafficking for the purpose of removal of organs, including a review of cases. Panelists included COFS’ Director Dr. Debra Budiani, Captain Louis Helberg of the South African Police Service; Dr. Nancy Sheper-Hughes of the University of California, Berkeley USA, and Maria Amihan Valles Abueva of the ECPAT, Asia Against Child Trafficking (ASIA ACTs). Comments were made by Nicole Maric of the UNODC and Luc Noel of the WHO. The discussion addressed assessing the problem, the detection, investigation and prosecution of cases, as well as measures for prevention and outreach.


COFS Partners with AYB-SD to Enhance Economic Empowerment Outreach Services

February 2008

COFS and the Alashanek ya Baladi Association for Sustainable Developmenthave partnered to enhance COFS’ economic empowerment outreach services to its beneficiaries. Accordingly, AYB-SD will extend its programs to the CLDs and potential CLDs that COFS identifies and who have expressed their need to participate in such assistance programs.


COFS Continues Efforts to Establish a National Transplantation Law in Egypt

May 2007

In addition tothe facilitation of the Egyptian Strategic Group on Organ Transplants (ESGOT) to enhance the transplant legal structure in Egypt, COFS has expanded its efforts with other medical professional leaders who share this aim. In an allied effort with UNOS via its immediate past president, Dr. Francis Delmonico, COFS facilitated Dr. Delmonico’s initial visit to Egypt to assess the potential for UNOS’ provision of technical assistance in the development of an Egyptian registry for transplants. UNOS is considering providing this assistance upon the request of the Egyptian Society of Nephrology’s (ESN) and Roche Pharmaceuticals. UNOS’ assistance is also contingent upon the establishment of an appropriate legal framework for transplants-particularly a framework that prevents commercial living donorship and assures national oversight of transplant practices. Dr. Delmonico, a Professor of Surgery at Harvard University, is now the Director of Medical Affairs of the international Transplantation Society and an Advisor of Human Transplantation to the WHO. read more.

Egypt Conference


COFS Participates in Libyan Initiative to Advance Deceased Donation

May 2007

In an effort to enhance national self-sufficiency in organ supplies and curb patients fromresorting to transplant tourism, Libyan transplant officials commenced a national initiative to establish organ donation from the deceased.This effort followed the passing of a national law to permit deceased donation in Libya in March 2007. Dr. Ehtuish Farag Ehtuish, the Director of the Libyan National Transplantation program, organized a conference with transplant doctors in Libya to advance this initiative.
read more.


COFS Participates in WHO’s Second Global Consultation on Organ Transplants

March 2007

In attendance with international experts on organ transplants and trafficking,COFS’ Executive Director, Dr. Debra Budiani, was invited to take part in theWorld Health Organization’s (WHO) Second Global Consultation onOrganTransplants. The group included representatives from Africa, Asia, theMiddle East, Europe and the Americas and worked to update WHO’s guidelineson transplants of organs, cells, and tissues for theWorld Health Assembly (WHA) to review in May 2008.

who participates


COFS Invited to Present its Work and Study’s Findings at Regional WHO and MESOT Meetings, Kuwait

November 2006

COFS’ Executive Director, Dr. Debra Budiani, was invited to participate in the World Health Organization (WHO) regional meetings November 25 and 26 and the meetings of the Middle East Society of Organ Transplants (MESOT) . read more

WHO Meetings in Kuwait



July 2006

The Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) of the World Health Organization (WHO) granted institutional support to COFS for its work on combating organ trafficking in the region. WHO and COFS’ share commitments to protecting the poor and vulnerable from exploitation for human tissues and organs as well as long-term follow up of living donors.


COFS Facilitates Pioneering Donor Support Groups

Beginning in July, 2006,

COFS outreach staff have facilitated support group meetings per the request of commercial living organ donors and victims of organ theft. Participants have ranged from those who “donated” an organ 10 years ago to those who were still in recovery from their donation. The meetings provoked extensive narratives and discussion on misconceptions about what the donation experience would involve, donors’ fears of eventual health outcomes, compromised ability to carry out labor-intensive activities and compromises in income, difficulties or inability of explaining their experience to loved ones, and long-term psychological distress from the donation. A trained psychologist also provided group therapeutic intervention and several participants requested private therapy sessions. The meetings provide the first chance for many commercial living organ donors to meet other commercial living organ donors and obtain peer support about their donation experiences.


COFS Expands Partnerships with Civil Society Groups

November 2006

COFS has recently expanded its partnerships in Bahrain, India, Nepal, and Pakistan with various civil society groupswho share COFS Mission. Read More.



COFS and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Build Partnership

November 2006

COFS and the

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) partner to address the situation of transplants in Bahrain and the Gulf region. Conditions of poor or no access to organs for transplant facilitate the production of transplant tourism for commercial living donorship as a human rights concern. COFS and BCHR strategize to promote alternative sources of organ supplies in Bahrain and the region to curb transplant tourism for organs abroad, largely in Asia. BCHR is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights. BCHR’s Vice President Nabeel Rajab and Executive Director Dr. Debra Budiani conducted meetings recently in Manama, Bahrain and Bangkok, Thailand to establish the parternship and begin developing a framework for advocacy.

Media Stories:

GULF DAILY NEWS – 18 November, 2006




COFS Facilitates Key Actors Meetings in Egypt

December 2006

COFS, in collaboration with partner groups theAssociation for Health and Environmental Development (AHED) and the People’s Health Movement (PHM), conducted the first of a series of meetings with key actors in Cairo in order to discuss creating alternatives for organ supply sources in Egypt that do not rely on commercial living donors. read more


COFS Invited to Speak about COFS Outreach and Prevention Work at the 8th Annual Southwest Nephrology Conference (United States)

October 2006

COFS’ has been invited to speak about its donor outreach services and prevention projects at the 8thAnnual Southwest Nephrology Conference in Phoenix, Arizona February 23 and 24, 2007. These meetings are sponsored by the Arizona Kidney Foundation and the Mayo Clinic. COFS’ Executive Director, Dr. Budiani will discuss global trafficking of human organs and COFS work to combat this problem and secure alternative sources of organ and tissue supply policies.



COFS Participates in Conference on Islam and Bioethics

March 2006

COFS’ Advisory Council member Dr. Othman Shibley and Executive Director Dr. Debra Budiani participated in an international multi-disciplinary conference to explore the emerging field of Islamic bioethics and to highlight the diversity of methodologies and practices that the field encompasses.The conference entitled,

Islam and Bioethics: Concerns, Challenges, and Responses, was held at the Penn State campus with international broadcasts made via the conference website.