WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) returned to Washington this week after successfully promoting measures against human trafficking and torture during negotiations at the tenth annual session of legislators from throughout Europe.
“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to promote measures against two horrific human rights abuses: trafficking human beings into slavery-type exploitation and incommunicado detention, a practice which denies detainees contact with the outside world, facilitating torture and other abuses,” Smith said.
Co-Chairman Smith sponsored the two resolutions at the tenth annual Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held July 6-10, 2001 at the French National Assembly in Paris.
Co-Chairman Smith’s anti-torture resolution calls on participating States to exclude evidence obtained through the use of torture, or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in courts of law or legal proceedings. It also calls for a complete ban, in law and in practice, on incommunicado detention.
“In too many instances, the use of incommunicado detention continues to foster an environment in which torture or other forms of abuse can and do occur,” Smith said. “This practice must be stopped and the OSCE participating States should commit to this in unequivocal terms.”
Co-Chairman Smith also worked with the French delegation to promote a measure against human trafficking in the OSCE region, an issue he also highlighted at prior assembly meetings in St. Petersburg (1999) and Bucharest (2000).
The U.S.–French resolution appeals to governments to review their domestic laws to ensure that trafficking in human beings is considered a criminal offense and that penalties are established that reflect the grievous human rights abuses perpetrated by traffickers. The resolution also calls for protection of the rights of trafficking victims.
Co-Chairman Smith has been actively involved in these issues in the United States. In October 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 sponsored by Smith. The bill was signed into law on October 28, 2000. Co-Chairman Smith also sponsored the Torture Victims Relief Act which became public law on October 30, 1998.
“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 Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, including Co-Chairman Smith’s resolutions on the prevention of torture and abuse and on combating trafficking of human beings is located on the Internet at http://www.osce.org/pa.