Human Rights Day Observed
Smith says rights violated in China, Cuba, Sudan, Vietnam and other nations; Int’l Child Abduction Woes Remain
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith painted a grim picture of human rights abuse in China, Cuba, Sudan, Vietnam and other nations, and called for increased U.S. pressure to bring about changes in the lives of human rights victims.
A grim picture of human rights abuse in China, Cuba, Sudan, Vietnam and other nations was painted by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, a senior Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a leading human rights advocate in Congress, who called for increased U.S. pressure to bring about changes in the lives of human rights victims.
“For many people around the world, 2009 has not been a good year,” Smith said. “Many have continued to see their human rights violated by their own governments which are supposed to look out for them.”
He also pointed to the state of often overlooked human rights issues like human trafficking for labor or sexual exploitation, and international child abduction involving American children held unlawfully abroad by one parent against the wishes of the other, or by relatives. Last week the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) held a hearing on international child abduction with testimony from left behind parents, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and judicial and legal experts on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. (Click here to view Smith's “International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009”.
“Child abduction is child abuse, pure and simple,” said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), an executive member of the TLHRC. “It is a growing problem that leaves shattered lives and broken hearts. We have to press for real systematic change in order to bring American children home.”
Last month, the TLHRC held a hearing on China’s brutal one child policy and its treatment of women, who suffer the highest suicide rates in the world. Christians, Muslims, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners and other groups have been subjected to abuse by their government. Days later one witness was detained during President Obama’s visit, and later arrested.
“Human rights have suffered in China in 2009, and the United States has been sending a message that profits and money-making and climate change issues trump human rights,” said Smith, the Ranking Member on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Regarding Sudan, Smith has been committed to establishing peace in the troubled nation since he first learned of the human rights violations occurring in that country in the 1980s. As chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, he held hearings on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and visited displaced-persons camps in Darfur, learning first-hand about the sexual violence, massacres and destruction of entire villages. As recently at a Dec. 3 hearing, he challenged the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan to provide Members of Congress with more information about the administration’s policy for Sudan.
“I know from my three decades of working on human rights issues that human rights suffer when they allegedly are dealt with only behind closed doors,” Smith said. “Sudan is no different.”
Rep. Smith introduced the Vietnam Human Rights Act, H.R. 1969, to address the ongoing human rights abuses in Vietnam and hold the Vietnamese Government accountable for its mistreatment and incarceration of democracy advocates, peoples of faith and labor rights activists.
“Over the past few years, the human rights situation in Vietnam has gone from bad to worse,” said Smith. “Hanoi has unleashed a torrent of repression upon courageous citizens fighting for basic rights. These victims have been imprisoned by the regime for practicing their faith and standing up for what they believe in.”
Smith also worries that recent easing of relations between Cuba and the U.S. without pressing for release of political prisoners is a mistake.
“Before the Obama administration even thinks about permitting travel to Cuba or altering the trade embargo on Cuba, our government has a moral obligation to ensure that the Cuban government releases its prisoners, makes substantial progress in respecting freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly, and holds free and fair elections,” he said.