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Helsinki Commissioners Praise First Annual Report on Trafficking in Persons

WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Commissioner Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), principal sponsors of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, commended the State Department for its first annual report on human trafficking on Thursday.

“Friends don’t let friends commit human rights violations,” Smith said. “With the release of this report on trafficking in persons, the United States has demonstrated bold leadership in the battle to end the trade in human beings. We wrote this law precisely for the purpose of setting a benchmark from which to judge the efforts and progress in those countries where the trafficking problems are most egregious,” Smith said.

Trafficking in human beings “includes the classic and awful elements associated with historic slavery such as abduction from family and home, use of false promises, transport to a strange country, loss of freedom and personal dignity, extreme physical abuse and depravation,” said Sen. Brownback.

The report is mandated by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which was signed into law on October 28, 2000. The State Department will issue the Trafficking in Persons report annually and may also issue interim reports. Beginning in 2003, those countries that are listed in Tier 3—signifying that they do not satisfy the law’s minimum standards to combat trafficking and are not making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards—may be denied non-humanitarian assistance from the United States, barring a Presidential waiver.

Nine of the current “Tier 3″ countries—namely Albania, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia—have committed in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to punish those who traffic in human beings and to better protect their victims.

“The United States expects the OSCE countries to fulfill their commitments. If the countries listed in Tier 3 needed a reminder of the importance that the United States places on combating human trafficking, then this report is it,” Smith said. Earlier this week, Smith successfully advanced a resolution against trafficking at the annual meeting of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly.

“This report will serve as a catalyst for reinvigorated international efforts to end this scourge,” said Smith. “We will just as vigilantly work to expeditiously implement those provisions of the legislation that provide tough new penalties for persons convicted of trafficking in the United States—up to life imprisonment—as well as compassionate new protections for victims of trafficking here,” said Smith.

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