Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Chairman - Helsinki Commission

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Chairman Hunter, it is a privilege to join you in convening this meeting to examine the Department of Defense’s response to the problem of trafficking in persons.

I was the prime sponsor of two landmark U.S. laws to end trafficking, here and abroad—the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and the TVPA Reauthorization Act in 2003. I have for years focused attention on the problem of human trafficking through legislation and in chairing numerous congressional hearings. As such, I am deeply grateful to President Bush for his deep and abiding commitment—both in words and deeds—in ending this cruel exploitation of women. President Bush’s leadership is making a profound difference throughout the world in abolishing this modern day slavery.

It is a sad fact that prostitution has historically coexisted alongside large populations of military forces. This is not a new problem, nor is it a uniquely American problem. In recent years, however, researchers, the press and concerned individuals have documented that in certain locations, such as South Korea and Southeastern Europe, women and girls are being forced into prostitution for a clientele consisting largely of military service members, government contractors, and international peacekeepers.

The need for a strategy to prevent the emergence of prostitution and human trafficking in post-conflict areas is made abundantly clear by the experiences in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. In both areas, prostitution and human trafficking were allowed to develop and thrive due to the arrival of large numbers of multi-national personnel involved in post-conflict reconstruction and peacekeeping. The United States and the international community failed to address these issues at the outset in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Dayton Agreement, perhaps unwittingly, enabled peacekeepers-turned-traffickers to be above the law. In like manner, international peacekeepers in Kosovo have been implicated in trafficking, but faced mere repatriation as a sanction for their unlawful actions. We need to close the legal loopholes that allow this to happen.

In the spring of 2002, Fox News reporter Tom Merriman showed me an investigative report indicating that U.S. troops in South Korea were patronizing bars and other establishments where women from the Philippines and the former Soviet states were trafficked and forced to prostitute themselves. The investigation captured on video U.S. soldiers on “courtesy patrol” patrolling these establishments at which U.S. soldiers are the primary customers.

While recognizing that the vast majority of U.S. Service members would never engage in such reprehensible conduct, I was outraged to learn that some Service members may be creating a demand for trafficking of women into prostitution while stationed abroad. I immediately led a dozen Members of Congress in calling for an investigation by the Department of Defense Inspector General into the allegations made by Fox News.

Inspector General Joseph Schmitz aggressively and thoroughly undertook a global investigation. His two reports identified institutional weaknesses in our military’s understanding and response to the crime of human trafficking and made concrete recommendations for action.

U.S. Government policies against trafficking have progressed tremendously since Fox News aired its report. In November 2002, President Bush issued a National Security Presidential Directive establishing a zero-tolerance policy on involvement in trafficking activities by U.S. Government employees and contractor personnel representing the United States abroad.

In January 2004, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz issued an anti-trafficking policy specifically for DOD. In June of 2004, at the NATO Istanbul Summit, with strong leadership from the Bush Administration through U.S. Ambassador Nick Burns, the Heads of NATO Member States adopted an anti-trafficking policy for all troops participating in a NATO-led operation. And last Friday, on September 16, Secretary Rumsfeld issued a strongly worded statement indicating to the highest level of military leaders that he expects the problem of trafficking—both sex and labor trafficking—to be addressed.

Now that the policies are set, the Department of Defense has a major task before it to ensure faithful implementation. Inspector General Schmitz and General Leon LaPorte, the Commander of United States Forces Korea, are personally committed to combating trafficking and deserve an enormous amount of credit for speaking forcefully about the incompatibility of trafficking and prostitution with military core values. In South Korea, General LaPorte is taking strong and decisive action to curb the involvement of U.S. Service members in activities that could facilitate trafficking. General LaPorte, your leadership has literally spared many women from the cruelty of trafficking.

Such leadership is indispensable in this fight and must be the rule, not the exception. It should be intolerable to military and civilian leaders that Service members, peacekeepers, or government contractors who are entrusted to protect civilians in destabilized regions would participate in or encourage human trafficking activities. Instead of supporting the rule of law in post-conflict regions, those who engage in or facilitate trafficking grossly violate human rights, strengthen the criminal networks that destabilize fragile democracies, and undermine their own mission. When any U.S. Government representative engages with impunity in actions that allow prostitution and human trafficking industries to prosper, the efforts of Congress and the State Department to combat this criminal scourge are severely undermined.

DOD’s efforts to combat trafficking are headed in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done. DOD is in the process of developing its anti-trafficking training materials and faces the challenge of ensuring a quality product that effectively expresses the heinous nature of trafficking. These materials must be effective in changing the hearts and minds of those individuals who might otherwise be a part of the problem. Other challenges that continue to face us include the lack of legal accountability, particularly among U.S. Government contractors, for activities associated with trafficking.

As he did last September, President Bush spoke this morning to the UN General Assembly about this scourge. In the President’s words, “Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have joined together to confront the evil of trafficking in human beings. . . . Women and children should never be exploited for pleasure or greed, anywhere on Earth.” The Commander in Chief’s outrage at this problem must set the tone for the Department of Defense’s aggressive implementation of U.S. anti-trafficking policy.

This Issue Forum will help us determine how the U.S. Government and, specifically the Department of Defense, can make its efforts in this area more effective. Chairman Hunter, I thank you again for your willingness to join forces with the Helsinki Commission to address this important issue. I look forward to hearing the testimony of our distinguished panelists.