WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chairman Smith led a Commission briefing on sex trafficking and abuse of children—a crime that destroys the lives of the victims. Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the Commission also participated in the briefing.
“The sex trafficking and abuse of children is one of the most despicable, violent crimes on earth – shattering the lives of the victims and their families – a crime from which the victims struggle for a lifetime to recover,” said Smith. “The traffickers and abusers rely on their ability to frighten a child into silence or the reluctance of adults to listen when children speak. They also use their own reputations, standing, or power in the community to prevent allegations from being properly considered and investigated.” Click here for Chairman’s Smith opening statement.
The briefing addressed the question of how justice systems can most effectively respond to domestic and international allegations of child trafficking, specifically in the context of a current case in the Netherlands, where a high-level government official, Joris Demmink, the current Secretary General of the Dutch Ministry of Justice, has been accused of child sex trafficking offenses against Turkish children during his alleged visits to Turkey in the 1990s. Dutch authorities have conducted only preliminary investigations, but many have found them grossly unsatisfactory as Dutch authorities have interviewed only one of three victims and none of the available witnesses or facilitators of the alleged crime—including Turkish law enforcement who have come forward to contradict Mr. Demmink’s statements.
Briefing the commission were: Adèle van der Plas, attorney for domestic and international child victims of sex trafficking, Bakker Schut & Van der Plas; Klaas Langendoen, private investigator, former Chief of the Criminal Intelligence Service, Netherlands; a survivor of child trafficking in Amsterdam, Netherlands (whose name was withheld to protect his privacy); Samantha Vardaman, Senior Director for Shared Hope International, a leading anti-child trafficking organization trying to bring attention to the Netherland case. Their statements and the unoffcial transcript are posted on the Commission Web site; the video recording of the hearing will be posted as soon as it is available.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.