• Leahy praises Obama’s call to end human trafficking
    By Mounira Al Hmoud
    For The RUTLAND HERALD | September 29,2012
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    WASHINGTON — Serving as a member of the U.S. delegation during this week’s United Nations meetings in New York, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy praised President Barrack Obama’s call to end human trafficking, while urging Congress to take action on the issue.

    During his address to the Clinton Global Initiative while attending U.N. meetings, Obama announced new steps to end human trafficking, while endorsing Leahy’s bill to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act — legislation first enacted in 2000 but which Congress allowed to let lapse a year ago. Among other things, the law authorized assistance to foreign countries to help combat human trafficking, while allowing for action against nations that did not meet certain minimum standards.

    “One vital step that Congress can take is reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which expired a year ago this month,” Leahy said in a statement. “This targeted legislation, which President Obama rightly said sparked a global movement, seeks to cut off human trafficking at its roots by supporting international and domestic efforts to fight the cause and punish the perpetrators of trafficking.”

    Having gained the sponsorship of half the Senate, including 14 Republicans, Leahy said he hopes to build a “momentum and pass this life-saving legislation swiftly.”

    According to a Justice Department Bureau of Statistics special report, 2,515 alleged incidents of human trafficking were reported between Jan. 1, 2008, and June 30, 2010, in the United States. Most — 82 percent — involved allegations of sex trafficking, including more than 1,200 reported incidents of adult sex trafficking and more than 1,000 reported incidents of child sexual exploitation.

    “The United States is a beacon of hope for so many who face human rights abuses abroad. We cannot further delay action while this injustice continues not only elsewhere in the world, but also here at home,” said Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of that panel’s subcommittee with jurisdiction over human rights.

    Focusing most of this week’s speech to the United Nations on the “Arab Spring,” Obama urged post-dictatorship nations to work toward democracy, adding that America will stand with leaders willing to moving forward and respect their people’s right to freedom and self-determination.

    Leahy, who also is chairman of the Senate Appropriations State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said he thought the president’s speech hit the right notes, especially on Egypt.

    “The reality is that we and the Egyptians share many interests, and the new Egyptian government has taken several important and positive steps, including reaffirming a desire for strong relations with the United States,” said Leahy in an email responding to questions. “But it is still early. As we heard from (Egyptian) President Mohamed Morsi in his U.N. address, we also have fundamental differences, including their more limited concept of freedom of expression.”

    The Vermont senator did express regret over the lack of broad international support to put a halt to the violence in Syria, which has resulted in the widespread killing of civilians.

    “I discussed the deteriorating situation with the (U.N.) Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon), and my frustration with Russia’s and China’s resistance to stronger steps to stop the violence and end the Assad regime’s assaults on the Syrian people,” Leahy said. “It is an especially tragic and difficult situation. Unlike in Libya, where we had broad support, including among Arab countries, for collective military action against (Moammar Gadhafi), that does not exist in the case of Syria. The United States will continue to be by far the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees and other victims of the violence.”

    Mounira al Hmoud is affiliated with the Boston University Washington Journalism Program.
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