Combating Trafficking for Organ Removal in Israel

 
​Israel faces various challenges when combating human trafficking for the purpose of removing organs. There is a genuine difficulty in differentiating between violating regulatory laws on organ transplantation, and violating the criminal offence of trafficking humans for the purpose of organ removal. The line between the two may easily become blurred. In addition, there is an added complexity in aiding victims, since they may be citizens, as opposed to other forms of human trafficking in which most victims are foreigners.
 
An in-depth discussion of Israel's efforts in preventing and prosecuting trade in organs may be found in The State of Israel's Efforts to Counter Trafficking for Organ Removal.


Israel has dealt with a handful of cases involving the crime of human trafficking for organ removal, and so far has only one conviction of the crime. This conviction is precedential, and has attracted worldwide attention and significance.

The conviction was issued in 2007 by the District Court of Haifa (The State of Israel v. John Allen and Hassan Zachalkeh). The defendants published ads in Arabic seeking kidney donors, and promising monetary remuneration all throughout the recovery period. They took advantage of poor, uneducated, mentally ill and otherwise vulnerable victims, convincing them to undergo surgery in the Ukraine for kidney removal in exchange for a measly $7,000. One of the defendants posed as a doctor and deceived victims of the quality of the surgery and its side effects, insisting that the procedure was quite simple, with a quick recovery process and no lasting physical or psychological damage. If any of the victims tried to withdraw from the agreement, they were met with forceful psychological pressure preventing them from doing so. In addition, the victims were deceived regarding the monetary payment which was never paid in the amount promised. In some cases it was only partially paid (between $500 and $3,500), in other cases it was not paid at all. Those who received the organs paid high sums ranging between $125,000 and $135,000. The defendants reaped enormous profits amounting to tens of thousands of Israeli Shekels.

Some of the victims accumulated debts and were forced to pay the defendants tremendous sums of money for living expenses, medical treatment, food, and clothing. Furthermore, a number of the victims had their freedom restricted and could only move around if escorted. Some of the victims lived in one of the defendant's house until departing to the Ukraine, so as to wield control over them and disconnect them from all external support. The defendants often threatened the victims to not speak or complain of the agreement, lest they be arrested by the police. One victim, who demanded his payment, was physically abused. The victims usually did not receive medical attention upon returning back home. In addition, their passports were often confiscated by the defendants.

The two defendants were convicted of human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and other criminal offences. One of the defendants was additionally convicted of impersonating a doctor and using a medical license. The principal defendant was sentenced to 4 years in prison.