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Helsinki Commissioners Call on President to Impose Sanctions on Governments Failing to Combat Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON – Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), along with Helsinki Commissioners Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY), and Hilda Solis (D-CA) sent the following letter to President George W. Bush urging him to impose sanctions upon governments who fail to adopt adequate measures to combat human trafficking. More specifically, the letter expresses concern over the exclusion of India and China from the Tier Three list of offending countries, although it is widely acknowledged that they are among the most egregious violators of human anti-trafficking conventions. In this respect, the Commissioners also noted the need for improvements among various OSCE member states, including the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The Commissioners point out in their letter to the President that if the aim of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TPVA) of 2000 is to prevent human trafficking, protect victims of human trafficking, and to punish traffickers, it must not employ different standards for designating countries that fail to take adequate steps to combat human trafficking. Such a course will lead to a lack of confidence and integrity in anti-trafficking efforts.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 requires that the State Department report annually to Congress on the status of foreign governments’ efforts to combat the trafficking of human persons. The report is intended to raise awareness globally of this issue in hopes that the international community will take the necessary actions possible to counter all forms of human trafficking. The report rates 164 countries in all and covers the period from April 2006 to March 2007. Currently, the report is under review by the President with a final decision on sanctions expected in September. For more information, please visit http://www.state.gov (Please find below a copy of the letter)

July 24, 2007

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to fully exercise the authority granted under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 to impose sanctions upon governments that fail to adopt adequate measures to combat human trafficking. In doing so, we also urge you to apply sanctions under TVPA through a credible and transparent process.

In this respect, we wish to express our concern regarding the exclusion of India and China from the Tier Three list of offending countries, although it is widely acknowledged that they are among the most egregious violators of human anti-trafficking conventions. It has come to our attention that India and China were not included among countries that have failed to implement significant anti-trafficking measures out of concern that their inclusion may adversely affect bilateral relations with these countries.

India has languished on the Tier Two Watch List since the 2004 report despite receiving some of the largest amounts of U.S. anti-trafficking assistance. Similarly, China has been on Tier Two Watch List since the 2005 report. The Tier Two Watch List carries no strong penalties for government inaction, making it counterproductive to allow countries to remain on the Watch List indefinitely.

We are also mindful that several OSCE participating States, including the Russian Federation, have repeatedly appeared on the Tier Two Watch List and deserve additional attention and engagement with the aim of strengthening their laws, policies and practices to combat human trafficking. Additionally, we note that Ukraine, a major source, transit, and destination country has been added this year in the absence of demonstrable progress in strengthening anti-trafficking efforts.

If the aims of the TVPA to prevent human trafficking, protect victims of human trafficking, and punish traffickers are to be optimally realized, we cannot employ different standards for designating countries that fail to take adequate steps to combat human trafficking. Such a course will lead to a lack of confidence and integrity in our anti-trafficking efforts.

We hope that you will give this issue the attention it requires in order to ensure that U.S. efforts to combat human trafficking are carried out in a comprehensive and impartial manner.

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