[Stop-traffic] U.S. Statement on Trafficking in Human Beings at OSCE Human Dimen sion Implementation Review Meeting

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] U.S. Statement on Trafficking in Human Beings at OSCE Human Dimen sion Implementation Review Meeting
From: Walsh, Maureen (Maureen.Walsh@mail.house.gov)
Date: Wed Nov 01 2000 - 13:57:07 EST


On October 17-27, 2000, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) held its annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in
Warsaw, Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to review the implementation
of OSCE commitments in the fields of human rights and democracy (the "human
dimension") by the OSCE's 54 fully participating States. The meeting was
attended by representatives from OSCE participating States, NGOs,
international organizations, and OSCE institutions. A session on trafficking
in human beings was held on October 25 at which the U.S. Ambassador to the
Holy See, Corinne C. Boggs, delivered the statement below on behalf of the
U.S. Delegation.

 

Statement on Trafficking in Human Beings
Delivered by Ambassador Corinne C. Boggs,
United States Delegation to the
OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Review Meeting, Warsaw
October 25, 2000

Mr. Moderator, at the Istanbul Summit, the participating States agreed to
"undertake measures . . . to end . . . all forms of trafficking in human
beings." At the Summit, and again at the June 19 Supplementary Human
Dimension Meeting in Vienna, we heard stories about the horrors of
trafficking in human beings and about the human rights abuses suffered by
the men, women and children who get caught in the web of organized crime and
corruption that fuels this trade. Press reports and human rights
organizations document, on an almost daily basis, the desperate stories of
trafficked persons in every corner of the OSCE region--from Vladivostok to
Vancouver and hundreds of cities in between.

Mr. Moderator, the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly worked
to ensure that trafficking was addressed in both the St. Petersburg
Declaration and the Bucharest Declaration. The United States believes it is
time--in fact, past time--to intensify collective efforts and to fulfill the
commitment we accepted in Istanbul by undertaking the concrete legal reforms
necessary to hold accountable persons responsible for trafficking and to
create greater protections for trafficking victims.

ODIHR and some of the OSCE's field missions have actively engaged in
activities related to the prevention of trafficking or assistance to
victims. The U.S. strongly supports these anti-trafficking projects and has
provided funding to maintain a trafficking advisor at ODIHR for a second
year as well as to support the expansion of a safehouse for victims in
Kosovo. The United States supports the recommendation that the OSCE, as an
institution, take an additional step to combat trafficking by developing a
code of conduct in order to discourage OSCE personnel from creating a demand
for the services of trafficked persons.

We recognize, however, that while the OSCE can play an institutional role in
assisting the participating States to comply with their OSCE commitments,
the ultimate responsibility for this issue--as with all human rights
obligations--rests squarely with the participating States themselves.
Governments need to take concrete steps to prosecute traffickers and to help
victims return to their communities and lead productive lives.

At the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting in June, NGOs suggested many
different and creative ideas for combating the traffic in human beings on
local, national and international levels. Over and over, however, the NGOs
repeatedly called upon governments to make trafficking a priority issue, to
undertake legal reforms and other measures to hold traffickers accountable,
to create greater protections for trafficking victims, and to work
cooperatively with the NGO sector in pursuit of these objectives.

The Charter for European Security's commitment to end all forms of
trafficking in human beings indicated two specific actions that, at a
minimum, should be taken to fulfill this commitment. The first action cited
is for participating States to "promote the adoption or strengthening of
legislation to hold accountable persons responsible for [trafficking]."
Nearly every OSCE State is a country of origin, or transit, or destination
for trafficked persons and yet no state has the perfect laws or
institutional framework for prosecuting perpetrators or protecting victims.
Many criminal codes do not yet recognize the crime of trafficking in human
beings. In some states, the crime is limited to trafficking into
prostitution, despite the fact that people are also trafficked into
sweatshop labor in factories, as agricultural workers, or domestic servants,
or even beggars.

My delegation is pleased to note that there has been some progress on
legislative reform. In the United States, the Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki
Commission and head of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly, Congressman Chris Smith, worked for a year and a half on
legislation which the President will soon sign into law mandating severe
punishment for traffickers. Under this legislation, any person who traffics
in human beings--or who reaps the profits from this abhorrent activity--will
face up to 20 years in prison, or even life imprisonment if the trafficking
results in death or if it involves kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or
an attempt to kill. Additionally, in Ukraine, the Parliament last year
amended the criminal law to create more strict penalties for trafficking,
and the Government and Parliament are working to improve that law to make it
more effective and to ensure that it fully protects victims.

Sadly, in many other countries, needed legal reform has yet to be
forthcoming. This step is essential if trafficking is to be converted from
the low-risk, high profit business that it currently is into the high-risk,
low profit crime that it deserves to be. We call on all participating States
to undertake a review and strengthening of their laws to ensure that
trafficking in human beings is established as a criminal offense under
domestic law and that penalties can be imposed that reflect the grave nature
of the offence.

The second prong of the Istanbul commitment--namely greater protection for
trafficking victims--is equally important and should occur simultaneously
with the strengthening of legislation to prosecute perpetrators. As we heard
from NGOs at the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting in June, trafficked
persons will not report abuses to authorities if doing so puts their lives
at greater risk and they do not believe that the State will protect them.
Efforts to promote victim protection and reintegration must recognize
trafficked persons as victims of crime and potential witnesses, rather than
as criminals.

The United States is pleased to report that the anti-trafficking legislation
just adopted in the United States includes many victim protection measures,
including funding for non-governmental organizations working domestically
and abroad to assist trafficking victims in safe integration, reintegration,
or resettlement. The law also creates a new non-immigrant visa which allows
a victim of trafficking to remain temporarily in the United States if the
victim is a child, or if he or she is willing to assist in the investigation
or prosecution of acts of trafficking and would suffer extreme hardship if
deported from the United States. In some cases, trafficked persons can also
become eligible for permanent residence after several years. The U.S. is
also providing assistance, through the Southeastern European Cooperative
Initiative, to promote cooperative efforts among law enforcement agencies to
combat trafficking in human beings.

Mr. Moderator, no one country alone has the power to eradicate the modern
form of slavery that plagues the OSCE region. We must work together taking
full advantage of the expertise of international organizations and the
courageous contributions of the NGO community. From my work with the
Vatican, I know that Caritas and other NGOs are undertaking vital work to
protect victims. Those efforts deserve our full support. We need to recall,
however, that this fight must begin at home. As with all human rights, the
responsibility to prevent this particular abuse, to prosecute those who
commit the atrocities, and to protect their victims, begins and ends with
the participating States. Implementation of the commitments we made in
Istanbul to undertake legal reform and protect trafficking victims are
essential if we are to end the barbaric assault on human rights and human
dignity that trafficking in human beings represents.

________________________________________
Maureen T. Walsh
General Counsel
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
    (The Helsinki Commission)
234 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-1901 (tel)
(202) 226-4199 (fax)
http://www.house.gov/csce <http://www.house.gov/csce>
 

On October 17-27, 2000, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held its annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to review the implementation of OSCE commitments in the fields of human rights and democracy (the "human dimension") by the OSCE's 54 fully participating States. The meeting was attended by representatives from OSCE participating States, NGOs, international organizations, and OSCE institutions. A session on trafficking in human beings was held on October 25 at which the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Corinne C. Boggs, delivered the statement below on behalf of the U.S. Delegation.

 

Statement on Trafficking in Human Beings
Delivered by Ambassador Corinne C. Boggs,
United States Delegation to the
OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Review Meeting, Warsaw
October 25, 2000

Mr. Moderator, at the Istanbul Summit, the participating States agreed to "undertake measures . . . to end . . . all forms of trafficking in human beings." At the Summit, and again at the June 19 Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting in Vienna, we heard stories about the horrors of trafficking in human beings and about the human rights abuses suffered by the men, women and children who get caught in the web of organized crime and corruption that fuels this trade. Press reports and human rights organizations document, on an almost daily basis, the desperate stories of trafficked persons in every corner of the OSCE region——from Vladivostok to Vancouver and hundreds of cities in between.

Mr. Moderator, the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly worked to ensure that trafficking was addressed in both the St. Petersburg Declaration and the Bucharest Declaration. The United States believes it is time——in fact, past time——to intensify collective efforts and to fulfill the commitment we accepted in Istanbul by undertaking the concrete legal reforms necessary to hold accountable persons responsible for trafficking and to create greater protections for trafficking victims.

ODIHR and some of the OSCE’s field missions have actively engaged in activities related to the prevention of trafficking or assistance to victims. The U.S. strongly supports these anti-trafficking projects and has provided funding to maintain a trafficking advisor at ODIHR for a second year as well as to support the expansion of a safehouse for victims in Kosovo. The United States supports the recommendation that the OSCE, as an institution, take an additional step to combat trafficking by developing a code of conduct in order to discourage OSCE personnel from creating a demand for the services of trafficked persons.

We recognize, however, that while the OSCE can play an institutional role in assisting the participating States to comply with their OSCE commitments, the ultimate responsibility for this issue——as with all human rights obligations——rests squarely with the participating States themselves. Governments need to take concrete steps to prosecute traffickers and to help victims return to their communities and lead productive lives.

At the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting in June, NGOs suggested many different and creative ideas for combating the traffic in human beings on local, national and international levels. Over and over, however, the NGOs repeatedly called upon governments to make trafficking a priority issue, to undertake legal reforms and other measures to hold traffickers accountable, to create greater protections for trafficking victims, and to work cooperatively with the NGO sector in pursuit of these objectives.

The Charter for European Security’s commitment to end all forms of trafficking in human beings indicated two specific actions that, at a minimum, should be taken to fulfill this commitment. The first action cited is for participating States to "promote the adoption or strengthening of legislation to hold accountable persons responsible for [trafficking]." Nearly every OSCE State is a country of origin, or transit, or destination for trafficked persons and yet no state has the perfect laws or institutional framework for prosecuting perpetrators or protecting victims. Many criminal codes do not yet recognize the crime of trafficking in human beings. In some states, the crime is limited to trafficking into prostitution, despite the fact that people are also trafficked into sweatshop labor in factories, as agricultural workers, or domestic servants, or even beggars.

My delegation is pleased to note that there has been some progress on legislative reform. In the United States, the Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and head of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Congressman Chris Smith, worked for a year and a half on legislation which the President will soon sign into law mandating severe punishment for traffickers. Under this legislation, any person who traffics in human beings——or who reaps the profits from this abhorrent activity——will face up to 20 years in prison, or even life imprisonment if the trafficking results in death or if it involves kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill. Additionally, in Ukraine, the Parliament last year amended the criminal law to create more strict penalties for trafficking, and the Government and Parliament are working to improve that law to make it more effective and to ensure that it fully protects victims.

Sadly, in many other countries, needed legal reform has yet to be forthcoming. This step is essential if trafficking is to be converted from the low-risk, high profit business that it currently is into the high-risk, low profit crime that it deserves to be. We call on all participating States to undertake a review and strengthening of their laws to ensure that trafficking in human beings is established as a criminal offense under domestic law and that penalties can be imposed that reflect the grave nature of the offence.

The second prong of the Istanbul commitment——namely greater protection for trafficking victims——is equally important and should occur simultaneously with the strengthening of legislation to prosecute perpetrators. As we heard from NGOs at the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting in June, trafficked persons will not report abuses to authorities if doing so puts their lives at greater risk and they do not believe that the State will protect them. Efforts to promote victim protection and reintegration must recognize trafficked persons as victims of crime and potential witnesses, rather than as criminals.

The United States is pleased to report that the anti-trafficking legislation just adopted in the United States includes many victim protection measures, including funding for non-governmental organizations working domestically and abroad to assist trafficking victims in safe integration, reintegration, or resettlement. The law also creates a new non-immigrant visa which allows a victim of trafficking to remain temporarily in the United States if the victim is a child, or if he or she is willing to assist in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking and would suffer extreme hardship if deported from the United States. In some cases, trafficked persons can also become eligible for permanent residence after several years. The U.S. is also providing assistance, through the Southeastern European Cooperative Initiative, to promote cooperative efforts among law enforcement agencies to combat trafficking in human beings.

Mr. Moderator, no one country alone has the power to eradicate the modern form of slavery that plagues the OSCE region. We must work together taking full advantage of the expertise of international organizations and the courageous contributions of the NGO community. From my work with the Vatican, I know that Caritas and other NGOs are undertaking vital work to protect victims. Those efforts deserve our full support. We need to recall, however, that this fight must begin at home. As with all human rights, the responsibility to prevent this particular abuse, to prosecute those who commit the atrocities, and to protect their victims, begins and ends with the participating States. Implementation of the commitments we made in Istanbul to undertake legal reform and protect trafficking victims are essential if we are to end the barbaric assault on human rights and human dignity that trafficking in human beings represents.

________________________________________
Maureen T. Walsh
General Counsel
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
    (The Helsinki Commission)
234 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC  20515
(202) 225-1901 (tel)
(202) 226-4199 (fax)
http://www.house.gov/csce
 

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