STATEMENT BY REP. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH (USA)
Addressed to the All-Russian National Assembly of Non-Governmental Organizations
to Combat Human Trafficking
January 27, 2004
Dear Elena Borisovna, Colleagues in the War Against Trafficking, Honored Guests,
I deeply regret that I am not able to join you for this first “All-Russian National Assembly of Non-Government Organizations to Combat Human Trafficking.” The Honorable Elena Mizulina extended an invitation to me when we were together in Rome last fall. The U.S. House of Representatives is in Session today and votes will be cast.
The work that you have done in Russia – in law, in word, and in deed through the tireless efforts of NGOs – is an inspiration to all of us. Because of your noble efforts and the recent response by your government, significant strides have been made toward ending the plague of human trafficking in Russia and in countries where Russian citizens are being exploited. In this connection, allow me to convey my appreciation to the official sponsor of today's event, Mr. Grigory Poltavchenko, the Russian Federation Presidential Representative to the Central Federal District.
Last year, both President Bush and President Putin strongly denounced the practice of human trafficking. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush called upon Member States to do their part to fight this modern-day slavery. He said, and I know we all agree, that “the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.” Introducing his anti-trafficking measures in the Duma, President Putin called trafficking “a modern form of slavery, which is accompanied by the most flagrant and cruel violations of human rights.” President Putin’s condemnation of human trafficking helped fuel the successful effort to amend Russia’s criminal code and, hopefully, will next lead to legislative measures to protect the victims of trafficking.
On December 19, President Bush signed into U.S. law an update of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which I authored in the Congress. Despite having enacted landmark anti-trafficking legislation just a few years ago, this new law reflects the need to be constantly vigilant about providing more and better tools to law enforcement and victims service providers.
Last October, at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Review meeting in Warsaw, the Russian delegation made a strong statement against trafficking and called for increased international contacts between government officials involved in interdicting trafficking. Such contacts have proven beneficial to both our nations, and I would emphasize that contacts between government officials and colleagues in the Russian NGO community are also vital. Dedicated NGOs in Russia worked for several years to bring the issue of trafficking to the attention of the Russian Government. These NGOs simultaneously sought out any avenue to provide compassionate responses for the trafficking victims they encountered and to prevent the victimization of further Russian citizens. I applaud the tenacity of each and every one of you who has toiled in the trenches these past years and I encourage you to remain committed to our common cause for the long road ahead.
Russia is the most populous and influential nation in Eurasia, and one of the world's major powers. If her actions to combat trafficking are successful, it will not only have a beneficial effect on the people of Russia but will strike a heavy blow against the pernicious web of human trafficking worldwide, and deprive organized crime of a major source of revenue. As we have in the past, the American people and American government stand ready to assist.
The task before us is formidable. While we are making progress in the campaign against human trafficking, the number of victims worldwide underscores the immensity of the problem. Behind the trafficking business stand huge economic interests that resist any efforts to thwart their vicious, but profitable, enterprise. But let the traffickers beware. We have begun the fight to save millions of women and children, as well as men who are forced every day to submit to the most atrocious offenses against their persons and against their dignity as human beings. We will not quit.
Working together with enlightened individuals in the executive branch and “legislators of conscience,” the Russian NGO community has demonstrated its deep commitment to combating human trafficking. You have my best wishes for a productive and successful conference and for future victories in the war against trafficking.
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