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Helsinki Commission Calls for Increased Efforts to Combat Demand that Encourages Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON­—On July 14, 2010, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), convened a standing-room only hearing centered on the diplomatic impact of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.  The hearing focused on the ten years that the annual TIP report has been prepared by the State Department.  In his statement, Chairman Cardin said that the “TIP report has emerged as a centerpiece in diplomatic efforts to advance human rights.” He also noted that “child trafficking continues, which is why it is essential that Congress expedite consideration of the bipartisan Child Protection Compact Act (S.3184), an important tool that would give the State Department greater ability to provide assistance to countries with high incidences of child trafficking.”

In his statement, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, cited the inspiration he derived from the designation of “Heroes Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery” acknowledged each year in the TIP report, including this year’s designee, fellow Floridian Laura Germino, of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  Congressman Hastings stated that, “Many agricultural laborers still encounter practices as insidious as I had seen in my youth, which rob them of their basic human rights.  Unfortunately, these circumstances thrive throughout the world.  We would be at a serious loss in challenging exploitation were it not for the dogged determination of heroes like Laura and the important monitoring efforts of the Trafficking in Persons Report each year.”

Ranking Commissioner Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), the author of the legislation that created the TIP report (Public Law 106-386), encouraged Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca of the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) to work more closely with the Tier 2 Watch List countries in the OSCE Region, helping them to implement the changes necessary to meet the minimum standards and to avoid statutory downgrades which will otherwise be required in next year’s TIP report.  These countries include Azerbaijan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Smith also focused on ways to deter demand for trafficking victims in all countries, including Tier 1 countries, saying: “The internet has opened a whole new front in the war with human trafficking—allowing demand to run free without obstacles.  We must develop appropriate safeguards to ensure that freedom of speech does not become freedom to exploit and abuse.”

Commissioner Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) focused attention on the need for greater tools for prosecution of traffickers and called on CdeBaca and Dr. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, to explore ways to potentially create extra-territorial jurisdiction for trafficking cases. 

The Commissioners also heard testimony from Ms. Jolene Smith, CEO and Co-Founder of Free the Slaves and Ms. Holly Burkhalter, Vice President for Government Relations at the International Justice Mission.

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