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Human trafficking report inflated by U.S. State Department

By Jeffrey Barrows, DO, MA (Ethics) | August 06, 2015

Excerpted from Special Report: State Department watered down human trafficking report,” Reuters. August 3, 2015 — In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba. And in China, they found, things had grown worse. The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.

A Reuters examination, based on interviews with more than a dozen sources in Washington and foreign capitals, shows that the government office set up to independently grade global efforts to fight human trafficking was repeatedly overruled by senior American diplomats and pressured into inflating assessments of 14 strategically important countries in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report.

In all, analysts in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons - or J/TIP, as it’s known within the U.S. government — disagreed with U.S. diplomatic bureaus on ratings for 17 countries, the sources said. As a result, not only Malaysia, Cuba and China, but countries such as India, Uzbekistan and Mexico, wound up with better grades than the State Department’s human-rights experts wanted to give them, the sources said.

The number of rejected recommendations suggests a degree of intervention not previously known by diplomats in a report that can lead to sanctions and is the basis for many countries’ anti-trafficking policies. State Department officials say the ratings are not politicized.


Commentary

Dr. Jeffrey BarrowsCMDA Health Consultant on Human Trafficking Jeffrey J. Barrows, DO, MA (Bioethics): “Since Congress passed the original anti-trafficking legislation in 2000, the State Department has been required to release an annual report that evaluates countries around the world regarding their efforts to combat human trafficking. The legislation provides that if the State Department finds a country that consistently fails to comply with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, non-humanitarian and nontrade-related foreign assistance may be withheld from that country.

“The intent of the legislation was simple—motivate the international community to take the necessary steps to help innocent victims and penalize those who refuse. Since the initial report in 2001, politics has occasionally influenced the recommendations within the annual report. However, at no time since 2001 has that political interference been greater than with the release of the 2015 trafficking report as the above article documents.

“A prime example is Cuba. Since 2003, Cuba has consistently garnered the worst possible rating, a tier 3 rating. However, this past year, without any demonstrable change in their efforts against human trafficking, Cuba miraculously moved up to a tier 2-watch rating. Other countries promoted to higher rankings against the advice of the State Department experts include China, India, Malaysia, Mexico and Uzbekistan.

“When politics trumps human rights, innocent people suffer. In this case they suffer the horrors of human trafficking, otherwise known as modern day slavery. You can download and read the introduction to the 2015 report here. To learn more about the intersection of health and human trafficking, visit CMDA’s online educational modules.”

Want to learn more about how you can make a difference in the fight against human trafficking? Attend a seminar sponsored by CMDA’s Commission on Human Trafficking on November 13-14, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Resources

CMDA’s Human Trafficking Ethics Statement
Commission on Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking Continuing Education

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