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Marcel van der Watt

Research Fellow, Free State Centre for Human Rights, University of the Free State

Marcel van der Watt (Ph.D.) is a Research Fellow at the Free State Centre for Human Rights (University of the Free State, South Africa) and Director of the Research Institute at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (United States). He is an internationally accoladed investigative and research professional with 20 years' experience in combating the interspersing criminal economies of organized crime, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. His cumulative experience as a former police investigator, hostage and suicide negotiator, and human trafficking case consultant continues to inform his work. Marcel has consulted in and provided expert court testimony in several sex trafficking cases, briefed members of the US Congress on issues related to online criminality, and engaged with both the Presidency and the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus in South Africa’s Parliament on matters related to implicit harms-, myths-, and laws associated with the sex trade. His work has been published and presented on international platforms, and he has trained multidisciplinary professionals from more than 30 countries.

Marcel's contribution to the investigation of crime and human trafficking combating efforts has been widely recognized. This includes a commendation by E. Benjamin Skinner, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School CARR CENTER for Human Rights Policy (2010), a position in the Top 35 under 35 Africans awarded by the Young People in International Affairs (2014), and the Influential Scholar Award by the 17th Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference (2020). Marcel serves on the Executive Committee of the Global Association of Human Trafficking Scholars (GAHTS).


  • –present
    Lecturer in Police Practice, University of South Africa