Commission on Security and Cooperation in
Joint Briefing: Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons in
Tuesday, May 22, 2007, 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Introductory Remarks of Rep.
Alcee L. Hastings
I am delighted to open this briefing of the Helsinki Commission, which I chair. I am delighted, first and foremost, because this is a joint effort with the Albanian Issues Caucus as well as the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking. It is always good when Members of Congress pool their resources and express a common concern about key issues of the day, be they domestic or international.
I also wanted to be here to open this briefing in order to make clear that the Helsinki Commission, under my leadership, will continue to give efforts to combat trafficking in persons the priority they deserve. Trafficking in persons is more than a crime; the violence and exploitation upon which it relies make human trafficking a larger evil.
Traffickers need to be prosecuted, but their potential victims must also be made aware of their vulnerability. Actual victims must be protected and assisted. Those who create a demand for victims, especially in the sex industry, must be discouraged. Several of my predecessors at the Helsinki Commission, especially Chris Smith, have played critical roles in putting all of this on our agenda, and I want to be sure it stays on our agenda as long as necessary.
A third and final reason why I came to open this briefing today is that the country of concern is
. Albania has had to recover, economically and politically, from the most repressive communist regime to exist in
. It has been plagued not only by more polarized politics than is usual or healthy; it has also had to contend with considerable official corruption and organized crime. All of these have played some role in opening the country to trafficking in persons.
Early on, Albania was a convenient transit country, especially to Greece or across the Adriatic to
. Today, it remains a source country for trafficking, and has been in Tier 2 on the State Department list for several years as a result.
At the same time, the relationship between the Albanian and the American people, not to mention their governments, is a strong one. It would be wrong not to hold
to account for its shortcomings or to cast aside the hurdles to Euro-Atlantic and European integration it has yet to clear on its own. I can assure the people of Albania, however, that we want their country as an ally and as much a part of
as any other. Our critical focus is therefore motivated by a desire to encourage.
Along these lines, I want to point out that it was the Albanian Embassy that approached the Commission and the two relevant caucuses about putting a briefing together, and I want to commend the Embassy for taking this initiative. While the focus is on efforts to combat human trafficking, acknowledgement that there is a trafficking problem is implicitly expressed. Many other countries, I dare say, would likely prefer not to have their names linked publicly at all with the problem of trafficking, and Albania is only one of several countries in the Balkans -- and of many countries in
-- which have been ranked in Tier 2 by the State Department. I therefore want to welcome and hopefully further encourage this honesty in speaking publicly, as we all must, about the ills that plague our societies. It is, indeed, the first step to treating those ills.
Let me now introduce today’s panel. First, we have Iva Zajmi, a Deputy Minister of the Interior and, since October 2005, the National Coordinator to Combat Human Trafficking in
. She also is an Adjunct Professor of European Law at the
. She holds a Bachelor of Law from Albania and a Masters Degree from
. She authored the textbook on European Law for the postgraduate program on European Studies.
Ms Zajmi will be followed by Bruce Hintz of the Justice Department and Ernest Allen of the
for Missing and Exploited Children.
Next, we have Bruce Hintz, the Department of Justice Liaison to the State Department’s Coordinator of Assistance to Europe & Eurasia. Mr. Hintz has worked in the Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) since 1989 and has managed and supported law enforcement development projects around the world. From February 2003 to October 2006, he directed the U.S. Department of Justice’s ICITAP program in
, which offered law enforcement development support to the Government of Albania in border management, combating organized crime, police academy development, human resource management and information management systems. Prior to beginning work with ICITAP, Mr. Hintz worked with Miranda Associates, the consulting firm that provided the logistical and administrative support for ICITAP as the program was just starting up. His first international development work was through Peace Corps in
Our final panelist is Ernest, or Ernie, Allen, President & Chief Executive Officer of the
for Missing & Exploited Children. He was co-founder of the private, nonprofit
of the same name in this country, which has helped recover tens of thousands of children. Ernie Allen came to the Center following public service in his native
. He is an attorney; and held faculty positions at the
. He has testified before the Helsinki Commission previously, and we are very glad to have him back with us today.