WASHINGTON – Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Commissioners Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) and Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY) today called on First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to express her support for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 1999—a bi-partisan bill HR 3244, under consideration in Congress—in her speech at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, tomorrow.
The provisions of the legislation complement language expected in the Istanbul Charter which President Clinton and leaders of the fifty-four OSCE participating States will sign tomorrow. Last July, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the governments of OSCE participating States to adopt or strengthen legislation and enforcement mechanisms which would punish those who forcibly or fraudulently recruit and transport individuals within or across borders in order to force them into prostitution or slavery-like labor conditions.
It is expected that the Summit document will also specify that States should promote the adoption or strengthening of legislation to hold accountable persons responsible for trafficking in human beings and to strengthen the protection of victims. Immediately following the Charter signing tomorrow, the First Lady will speak publicly to the OSCE Summit gathering about this issue.
“Trafficking in human beings is a form of modern day slavery,” said Smith. “The international community has made it clear that lawmakers must declare war on those that commit these crimes. The U.S. Congress recognizes the need for improved legislation to combat trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 1999 gained strong bipartisan support last week in the House International Relations Committee. When enacted, this law will strengthen U.S. laws and penalties against trafficking so that the United States will become the last place that traffickers want to commit their crimes. The bill would represent a direct fulfillment of this latest OSCE human rights commitment.”
H.R. 3244 would severely punish persons in the United States convicted of trafficking, including recruitment, harboring, transporting, purchasing or selling the trafficking victim. The bill would authorize $94.5 million for programs in the United States and abroad to assist and protect victims of trafficking, such as the provision of shelters and rehabilitation programs for victims and limited provision of relief from deportation for victims who expose their traffickers. Foreign aid would be authorized to help other countries improve their laws against trafficking and to establish protections for victims, but, for those countries that still do not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, non-humanitarian U.S. assistance would be withheld.
According to Smith, “H.R. 3244 will make important and necessary changes to U.S. law designed to help end this brutal, inhumane, and horrific exploitation of human beings, especially women and children. The First Lady should use her speech tomorrow as an opportunity to support this bi-partisan effort against trafficking. H.R. 3244 is a model for the many other countries that are just beginning to address this affront to the human rights of millions of people, particularly women and children.”