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Public Statements

Child Sex Trafficking Topic of Congressional Briefing

Press Release

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

A congressional briefing on sex trafficking and abuse of children--a crime that destroys the lives of the victims--was chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, also known as the Helsinki Commission. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) also participated in the briefing.

"The sex trafficking and abuse of children is one of the most despicable, violent crimes on earth -- shattering the lives of the victims and their families -- a crime from which the victims struggle for a lifetime to recover," said Smith. "The traffickers and abusers rely on their ability to frighten a child into silence or the reluctance of adults to listen when children speak. They also use their own reputations, standing, or power in the community to prevent allegations from being properly considered and investigated."

The briefing addressed the question of how justice systems can most effectively respond to domestic and international allegations of child trafficking. The briefing addressed the question in the context of a current case in the Netherlands, where a high-level government official, Joris Demmink, the current Secretary General of the Dutch Ministry of Justice, has been accused of child sex trafficking offenses against Turkish children during his alleged visits to Turkey in the 1990s. Dutch authorities conducted a preliminary investigation, but many have found it grossly unsatisfactory as Dutch authorities interviewed only one of three victims and none of the available witnesses or facilitators of the alleged crime--including Turkish law enforcement--was interviewed.

"Mr. Demmink has also been accused by a witness that will present today of sexually abusing and raping the witness when the witness was being trafficked in a brothel in Amsterdam at the age of 15," Smith said. "The investigation into these accusations was suddenly and inexplicably halted, and law enforcement officials involved were allegedly sworn to secrecy."

Briefing the commission were: Adèle van der Plas, attorney for domestic and international child victims of sex trafficking, Bakker Schut & Van der Plas; Klaas Langendoen, private investigator, former Chief of the Criminal Intelligence Service, Netherlands; a survivor of child trafficking in Amsterdam, Netherlands (whose name was withheld to protect his privacy); Samantha Vardaman, Senior Director for Shared Hope International, a leading anti-child trafficking organization trying to bring attention to the Netherland case. Their statements will be posted on the CSCE website. (A video prepared by advocates for alleged victims can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmeYiR-yyS4.

"As we have seen recently in the tragic Sandusky child sex abuse case at the Penn State, many sexually abused children do not find a way to speak until they are adults," Smith said. "But when they do so, and are heard, others find the courage to come forward--putting the traffickers and abusers behind bars and bringing an end to the cycle of broken lives. It is imperative that the justice system be ready to listen to allegations and to thoroughly investigate allegations no matter when they are raised--and no matter who is accused."

The U.S. Helsinki Commission is an independent agency of the U.S. Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

The U.S. Helsinki Commission is an independent agency of the U.S. Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.


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