Smith Leads Human Rights Efforts at Parliamentary Assembly
Human trafficking resolution and anti-Semitism amendment
Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), the author of America’s landmark law to combat sex and labor trafficking (the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000), is at a conference of European and North American lawmakers today to advance the global fight against human trafficking and to step up efforts to combat anti-Semitism.
More than 300 members of parliaments from 56 countries—including eleven members from the United States—are in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, for the 2017 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE-PA). As part of their charge, OSCE parliamentarians meet annually to reach agreement on proposals for security, economics and human rights.
Smith, currently the Co-Chair of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (which leads American participation in the OSCE-PA), has authored four major U.S. laws to fight trafficking: the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (P.L. 106-386), the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (P.L. 108-193), the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-164) and the International Megan’s Law (P.L. 114-119).
“The internet has opened new international avenues for human traffickers as they seek out and sell new victims—particularly children,” said Smith. “Even worse, with unfettered access to online pornography, kids are being desensitized to sexual violence and exploitation—effectively groomed to be trafficked.”
To galvanize more international support for these victims, Smith will offer a “Supplemental Item,” i.e. resolution, entitled “Preventing Child Sexual Exploitation Online through Advances in Technology.” Already cosponsored by 53 members from 26 countries, Smith’s resolution urges each of the OSCE countries to implement internet age verification programs in order to prevent children from accessing violent pornography, similar to what is already being done Germany, Finland, Denmark and, most recently, the United Kingdom.
“According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) almost two million children are cruelly exploited by sex traffickers each year,” Smith said. “Over the last decades, numerous forms of high tech age verification options have been developed; it is up to us to use them for the protection of children from trafficking.”
At twelve previous conferences, Smith—who serves as the Special Representative on combatting human trafficking for the OSCE-PA—has sponsored twelve successful resolutions, including the first in 1999 in St. Petersburg, Russia, which enlisted the OSCE-PA in a coordinated fight against human trafficking for the first time.
In addition to his human trafficking resolution, Smith is sponsoring a separate amendment to the final document, calling on all member nations to adopt and operationalize the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism: Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
“Attacks on Jewish communities have been on the rise in many OSCE countries—including here in the U.S.,” said Smith, who held Congress’ first hearings on anti-Semitism. “Passing this amendment will send a strong signal across the globe: anti-Semitism will not be tolerated.”
Smith has also authored three previous Supplemental Items on anti-Semitism in Berlin (2002), Rotterdam (2003) and Edinburgh (2004). Passage of all three resolutions demonstrated a united front by OSCE countries against the world-wide problem of anti-Semitism.
Separate from the official parliamentary program, Smith and OSCE chairman, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) are scheduled to meet with Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko. Since 2004, Smith has authored three laws to promote democratic development, human rights and the rule of law in Belarus: The Belarus Democracy Act (P.L. 108-347), The Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-480) and The Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-82). Each law created new and more powerful tools to monitor and sanction the government for its human rights violations including crackdowns on opposition leaders and human rights defenders.
Smith will also keynote a human trafficking event held concurrently with the OSCE-PA. At the event—open to lawmakers and human rights advocates—Smith will highlight the newly released 2017 Trafficking in Person Report which ranks countries based on their efforts to combat human trafficking. He will also outline best practices and legislative mandates in the fight against human trafficking.