Washington, D.C., March 11, 2005 - U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, the Vice Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, told reporters during a press conference at the Voice of America (VOA) today he was concerned about the ability of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to take effective action during the annual session that begins on March 14.
"I am concerned that the U.N. is losing its ability (to protect human rights)," said Smith, "by allowing rogue nations to sit on that commission and then act as barriers to those of us who would ...like to hold them to account for their misdeeds to their own people." Smith, a 24-year veteran Republican congressman from New Jersey, chairs the House subcommittee with oversight on global human rights. Reflecting on his own experience during last year's meeting, Smith related how he met with delegations from 26 nations during the conference but was "appalled to see a further deterioration" of the commission's work in upholding human rights.
Asked about the practice of trafficking in humans, Smith referred to the practice as "modern day human slavery." As the author of multi-faceted legislation to combat what he described as a plague, Smith said his subcommittee on Thursday approved legislation to strengthen existing law and protect victims from force, fraud and coercion, as well as provide victims with safe haven. Smith indicated the full House International Relations Committee would debate the legislation in the coming days.
Smith also decried the human rights situation in China, calling that country "the biggest abuser of human rights in the world, in my opinion." He singled out China's one child policy as particularly harsh, and added, "It is the only human rights abuse in the world that I know of where virtually every family, every woman, has been mal-affected by this policy...where brothers and sisters are illegal."
Smith's appearance at a VOA Newsmaker Press Conference was broadcast by the Voice of America via radio, television and Internet to Asia, Latin America, Europe and Africa.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages, including English.
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