WASHINGTON – The Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), applauded today the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) adoption of a decision on “Ensuring the Highest Standards of Conduct and Accountability of Persons Serving on International Missions and Forces.” The decision was agreed to by the OSCE’s Ministerial Council which met in Ljubljana, Slovenia on December 5th and 6th.
The decision calls on the 55 OSCE States to prevent military and civilian personnel deployed abroad to peacekeeping forces or other international missions, as well as OSCE officials, from engaging in trafficking in human beings or exploiting victims of trafficking, and to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, as well as incidents of forced labor. Any such cases should be properly investigated and appropriately punished.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
“The OSCE has taken an important step in establishing an internationally recognized standard for the behavior of military and civilian personnel serving in peacekeeping and related roles around the world,” said Smith. “It is helping to insure that those entrusted to keep the peace and protect vulnerable populations do not, instead, add to human suffering.”
“While the overwhelming majority of persons serving on peacekeeping missions adhere to the highest standards of conduct, there have been cases of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse of local populations. With this, and NATO’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy against human trafficking, the international community has made clear that those entrusted with protecting the innocent will not become their exploiters,” added Smith.
Rep. Smith, who serves as the Special Representative on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, authored the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its reauthorization in 2003, which made the United States among the first countries to outlaw human trafficking as a specific crime and also to provide aid to victims. Rep. Smith is also the author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005, HR 972, which is scheduled to be considered by the House Judiciary Committee on December 8.
“The OSCE’s action is consistent with HR 972 which would focus further attention on the need to ensure accountability of all who represent their countries abroad. I am hopeful that Congress will act swiftly to pass HR 972 to send the message that the world is not closing its eyes to this terrible crime,” added Smith.
“Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who headed our delegation to the OSCE Ministerial, and countries like Germany, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Armenia and Albania were instrumental in getting this decision through. I am deeply grateful for their support,” added Smith.