The transitional government set up in South Sudan as part of last year’s peace accord has missed a major internationally-set deadline thereby jeopardizing the establishment of a lasting democratic government in the new country according to experts testifying at a Capitol Hill hearing today.
“The humanitarian crisis we are trying to address is indeed among the worst in the world today,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Human Rights, who opened the hearing entitled South Sudan’s Prospects for Peace and Security. “Half of all Sudanese – 6.1 million people – are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection this year. Over half of all children aged six to 15 are not in school in South Sudan, the highest of any proportion in any country.
“It is our job to see what can be done to forestall a tragic conclusion to what was hoped would be a bright future in 2011 after the people of the then-brand new Republic of South Sudan severed ties from Khartoum,” Smith said. “We must be clear with all factions of the Government of South Sudan and the various militias still in the field. The fighting must stop—enough is enough. There must be accountability for the war crimes and atrocities that have occurred, and the transitional government must commit itself to contributing all it can to help its own people and not depend solely on the aid from the international community.” Click here to read Smith’s opening statement.
John Prendergast, Founding Director, Enough Project said that South Sudan is a country that has effectively been kidnapped and held for ransom by its leaders. “A government at its most basic level is supposed to deliver social services, provide security, and safeguard the rule of law. In South Sudan, however, it has been transformed into a predatory criminal enterprise that serves only the interests of those at the top of the power pyramid.” Click here to read Prendergast’s opening statement.
Donald Booth, the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, suggested that the situation was improving as of late but still conceded that the conditions on the ground in South Sudan are extremely fluid.
“The last 10 days, and the last 48 hours in particular, have seen a flurry of activity,” Booth said, leading to the return to Juba Tuesday of Riek Machar, who was immediately sworn in as First Vice-President, under the terms of the peace agreement signed last August. “We expect the Transitional Government of National Unity to be formally constituted within days… Progress this week came only after the most recent bouts of obstructionism by both sides.” Booth said the formation of the Transitional Government is the biggest challenge in implementing the peace agreement. Click here to read his opening testimony.
Bob Leavitt, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development, underscored the devastation faced by the ordinary citizens as they await the progress promised.
“Ordinary South Sudanese are struggling to afford food and other basic goods with a significantly devalued currency,” Leavitt said. “People continue to flee South Sudan in search of food and safe haven. The recent exodus of South Sudanese into Darfur, Sudan, shows the desperation they face. A total of about 2.5 million South Sudanese have fled their homes, including 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more than 800,000 refugees in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya. Half of all South Sudanese—meaning 6.1 million people—are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection this year. Approximately one in four South Sudanese—2.8 million people—are experiencing extreme, life-threatening hunger.” Click here to read Leavitt’s opening statement.
“Government and opposition forces both often waged war through targeting civilians, frequently along ethnic lines,” Wells said. “They have killed, injured, and raped civilians; burned villages; destroyed or damaged schools and health clinics; and looted property, including cattle, food, and humanitarian supplies.” Click here to read Well’s opening statement.
Luka Biong Deng Kuol, Ph.D., Global Fellow, Peace Research Institute Oslo, pointed out that “tens of thousands of civil population are feared to have died from diseases or even hunger in isolated villages, swamps and bushes beyond the reach of aid agencies.” He said nobody knows how many people perished in South Sudan and such failure to count the dead is a scandal and a dishonour to the victims.” Click here to read Kuol’s opening statement.
Augustino Ting Mayia, Ph.D., Director of Research at The Sudd Institute attributed much of the crisis to a “lack of adequate human resources capacity, weakening government’s institutional ability to deliver direly needed basic services to the population.”
The international agreement creates a transitional government comprised of President Salva Kiir and elements of his current government, returning Vice President Machar and elements of his opposition forces and elements of civil society, and including representatives of the faith community, women and youth. Civil society had been excluded from direct involvement with the negotiations for this agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the international community is watching the extent to which civil society will be genuinely represented in the transitional government, which is supposed to lead to election in 30 months.
Meanwhile, fighting has died down in some areas of South Sudan while erupting in new areas. Militias not under the control of the government or the opposition continue to ignore the cease-fire and severely inhibit humanitarian aid to an estimated six million people in need. An estimated 2.8 million South Sudanese reportedly face imminent starvation. Aid workers have been targeted for robbery and abuse, and at least 52 relief workers have been killed since the civil war broke out in December 2013.
Click here to watch a video of the hearing.
“South Sudan’s Prospects for Peace and Security,” is the title of a congressional hearing to be chaired Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the Africa and Global Human Rights Subcommittee. Officials from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and human rights advocacy groups will testify.
"South Sudan, the world's youngest country, is teetering on the verge of becoming a failed state," said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the Africa and Global Human Rights Subcommittee. "As one of the nations that played a major role in South Sudan's independence, the U.S. Government should make every effort to prevent this East African nation from falling into chaos. This hearing will examine the current situation and U.S. options."
WHAT: Congressional hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
WHO: Smith, members of the Subcommittee on Africa and global human rights, and witnesses:
WHEN: Wednesday, April 27 at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Room 2200 in the Rayburn House Office Building (second floor).
Today U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Senator James Lankford (OK), joined by 73 of their colleagues, sent a bicameral letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressing concern and requesting information about the agency’s recent decision to change its policies regarding the abortion drug mifepristone.
The letter says in part -
“We are deeply disappointed to learn that you have loosened FDA standards governing use of the abortion drug mifepristone, also referred to as Mifeprex or RU-486. This powerful abortion drug has been associated with serious adverse events including hemorrhaging, severe infections and even deaths of mothers who have taken it.”
In the letter the lawmakers seek additional information in light of the controversial origins of the original approval of mifepristone in the United States. At the beginning of the Clinton administration, Clinton issued an executive order instructing the FDA to re-evaluate the status of RU-486. Then-FDA Commissioner Kessler even urged the European patent-holder, Roussel Uclaf, to submit an application for approval of what was then called RU-486. When mainstream drug manufacturers refused to bring this baby-killing drug to the United States, the Population Council licensed the drug and abortion proponents created a corporation, DANCO, for one purpose and one purpose only: to distribute mifepristone in the United States. Headquartered in the Cayman Islands, DANCO had the abortion drug manufactured in China and packaged in New Jersey.
The complete letter and questions to the agency can be viewed here.
Authored by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) with the lead co-sponsorship of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the legislation enjoys widespread bipartisan support, garnering over 100 cosponsors. It is named the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (HR 1150), in honor of the former member of Congress and internationally recognized leader in the fight against religious persecution.
“Eighteen years ago, Frank Wolf led and Congress had the foresight to make advancing the right to religious freedom a U.S. foreign policy priority,” said Smith, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights. Click here to read excerpts of Smith’s remarks . “My legislation today strengthens our resolve and ensures that every administration integrates and advances religious freedom in its foreign policy objectives and actions.”
Specifically, Smith’s bill:
“The world is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of international religious freedom, a crisis that continues to create millions of victims; a crisis that undermines liberty, prosperity and peace; a crisis that poses a direct challenge to the U.S. interests in the Middle East, Russia, China and sub-Saharan Africa,” said Smith who has held more than a dozen hearings on religious freedom including the landmark October 15, 2015 hearing entitled "The Global Crisis of Religious Freedom."
“It is increasingly clear that a robust religious freedom diplomacy is necessary to advance US interest in stability, security, and economic development. Research shows that where there is more religious freedom, there is more economic freedom, more women’s empowerment, more political stability, more freedom of speech, and less terrorism,” he said.
The bill, which is supported by an large ecumenical group of religious organizations and representatives of ethnic minority groups and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives in the next few weeks.
Smith has promoted religious freedom and other human rights issues as chairman and co-chairman of the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.S. Commission on China.
JEWISH TELEGRAPHIC AGENCY - A congressional human rights commission heard testimony from experts on how Islamic radicalization in Europe has ramped up risk for Jewish communities.
“ISIS especially hates the Jewish people and has instructed its followers to prioritize killing them,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the chairman of the US Helsinki Commission, said Tuesday, launching the hearing he called in the wake of recent attacks in Europe, and referring to the Islamic State terrorist group behind some of the recent major attacks in Europe.
John Farmer, a former New Jersey attorney general who now leads a Rutgers University initiative to assess how to protect communities vulnerable to terrorism, said terrorist attacks were threatening the viability of Jewish Europe.
“The situation on the ground has become dire, the challenge to the Jewish communities has become nothing less than existential,” he said. “Many stalwart [Jewish] leaders have become ambivalent about remaining in Europe at all.”
Paul Goldenberg, the director of the Secure Communities Network, an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America, described a continuum of anti-Semitic violence over the last 20 years from attacks originating in right-wing extremism to those carried out by militant Islamists.
“In the span of two decades, we’ve moved from swastikas on buildings, the desecration of graveyards and simple assaults as well as long-standing institutionalized anti-Semitism to brutal violence, commando-style shooting attacks and even suicide bombings on the streets of Europe by battlefield-trained terrorist cells and organizations,” he said.
The experts, answering questions from Democrats and Republicans on the panel, identified the failure of European law enforcement agencies to fully coordinate and engage with Muslim communities as factors hindering bids to prevent attacks.
Farmer said he and Goldenberg would travel to Copenhagen and Brussels soon to meet with authorities and “explore concrete ways in which we might assist the Jewish and other vulnerable communities and law enforcement in working together to enhance public safety.”
Farmer also recommended that European law enforcement agencies emulate the FBI and more robustly engage with Muslim communities to enlist assistance in identifying radicals.
Rabbi Andrew Baker, the top official dealing with anti-Semitism at the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the reluctance of European authorities to identify anti-Semitism imported from the Middle East as being as toxic as indigenous ultranationalist anti-Semitism was also frustrating treatment of the violence.
“It has eroded the day-to-day sense of comfort and security for many European Jews,” said Baker, who is also the American Jewish Committee director of international affairs.
Jonathan Biermann, a former adviser to the Belgian government on anti-Semitism and intolerance, among other issues, counseled the adoption of the US Department of Homeland Security’s “see something, say something” initiative, which promotes awareness of terrorism warning signs among civilians.
“The collaboration with law enforcement agencies has to be based on trust and confidence, in respect of international laws and rules protecting individual freedom, civil liberties and privacy,” Biermann said.
Helsinki commissions are parliamentary bodies affiliated with the OSCE that monitor human rights.
THIS STORY CAN BE FOUND ONLINE BY VISITING:
“The recent terrorist attacks in Brussels were reminders that Europeans of all religions and ethnicities are at risk from ISIS,” said Smith, who chairs the panel which held the hearing, the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission. “But there can be no European security without Jewish security. As we have seen so many times in so many places, violence against Jewish communities often foreshadows violence against other religious, ethnic, and national communities. ISIS especially hates the Jewish people and has instructed its followers to prioritize killing them. The group’s cronies targeted the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May 2014, the Paris kosher supermarket in January 2015, and the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen in February 2015, and murdered people in all of them.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening statement.
A number of other members of Congress spoke at the hearing, including Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), CSCE co-chairman, and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Rep. Grayson (D-FL-09), Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) and Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ-06).
Rabbi Andrew Baker, Director of International Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Congress, and the OSCE’s Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson, thanked Smith for the “pioneering work you have done" in identifying and addressing the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe, and pressing the United States government and European States and in mobilizing the OSCE to confront the “age-old scourge” of anti-Semitism.
“One of the problems we have faced and we continue to face is that governments are slow to recognize the very problem itself, let alone to marshal the necessary resolve and expertise to confront it,” Baker testified.
For the past two years, witnesses John J. Farmer, Jr., Rutgers University Professor of Law, has led an initiative at Rutgers designed to identify the best ways to protect vulnerable communities in light of the evolving threat.
"We have worked with U.S. communities to develop what FBI officials have called an 'off-ramp' to radicalization," said Farmer. "This is a time of particular peril for the Jewish future in Europe, and it is incumbent upon us to do what we can to assure that future."
Jonathan Biermann, Brussels attorney and elected city councilman, and a former political adviser to the President of the Belgian Senate, the Development Minister, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, described the current atmosphere among Belgian Jews. He is Executive Director of the Crisis Cell for the Belgian Jewish community.
“Community members are nowadays used to see Police, guards, military in front of Jewish buildings and schools,” Biermann said, recommending establishing Memorandums of Understanding as an important step. “Creating the tools to communicate amongst communities with the government will be considerably facilitated by the ‘See something Say something strategy,’”Beirmann said. “The collaboration with Law enforcement agencies has to be based on trust and confidence, in respect of international laws and rules protecting individual freedom, civil liberties and privacy.”
Paul Goldenberg, a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, serves on the Countering Violent Extremism Sub-Committee, and as Co-Chair of the Foreign Fighter Task Force and Vice-Chair of the Faith-Based Advisory & Communications Sub-Committee. He also works with the Faith-Based Communities Security Program at Rutgers University. “I have made countless trips in recent months overseas, traveling to multiple European cities,” Goldenberg said. “What we have seen, heard and learned has confirmed our initial hypothesis: while the levels of cooperation and partnerships between Jewish and other minority religious communities with their respective policing services–in many parts of Europe–is as diverse as the communities themselves, more work needs to be accomplished to move closer to a medium and standard of safety and security. While this presents distinct challenges, there is also hope. For much of what we have learned, innovated, tested and improved upon here in the United States, as well as in other progressive nations, can be imparted to, and replicated by, many of our partners.”
Smith also chairs the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations subcommittee. Documents, video and other information about today’s CSCE hearing, will be posted here.
In 2015, Smith held a hearing in, “After Paris and Copenhagen: Responding to the Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism,” on the crucial role of the U.S. and other participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in battling anti-Semitism and called for strong American leadership.
The event is for any high school or college student (and their parents, counselors or educators) residing in the Fourth Congressional District who is interested in learning about competing for a nomination to one of the United States Service Academies. Each institution plays an integral role in training young men and women to become tomorrow's military leaders and affords them a collegiate education opportunity of the highest quality that is free of financial obligation, providing the student graduates and fulfills his or her service obligation. The academies are:
• The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York
• The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland
• The U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado
• The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York
• The U.S. Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut.*
“Throughout my tenure in Congress, I've had the honor and privilege of nominating many outstanding young men and women for acceptance into our nation's military academies,” said Smith. “With the United States' continued fight against terrorism throughout the globe and its commitment to defending our homeland and protecting national security interests abroad, recruiting top-notch talent for our all-volunteer armed forces is critically important.”
Members of Congress, U.S. Senators, the Vice President and the President may nominate constituents for acceptance to the academies. Residents of New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District, between ages 17 and 22 (17-25 for the Merchant Marine Academy), who are a U.S. citizen and are single with no dependents, can seek a nomination to one or more of the service academies through Congressman Smith’s office. Interested candidates can start the application process as early as the spring of their junior year in high school. Unlike the other four, the Coast Guard Academy does not require a congressional nomination.
The Fourth Congressional District encompasses 44 municipalities and includes parts of Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties. Municipalities in the Fourth District include:
• Mercer County - Hamilton and Robbinsville;
• Ocean County - Bay Head, Jackson, Lakewood, Lakehurst, Manchester, Point Pleasant Beach, portions of Point Pleasant Borough and Plumsted, and;
• Monmouth County - Allentown, Avon-By-The-Sea, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Brielle, Colts Neck, Eatontown, Englishtown, Fair Haven, Farmingdale, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Holmdel, Howell, Lake Como, Little Silver, Manalapan, Manasquan, portions of Middletown, Millstone, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Roosevelt, Rumson, Sea Girt, Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Township, Spring Lake, Spring Lake Heights, Tinton Falls, Upper Freehold and Wall.
The seminar is free and open to the public, and it will begin promptly at 5:30 p.m. For more information contact Smith’s Freehold Constituent Service Center, (732) 780-3035.
*The U.S. Coast Guard Academy does not require a congressional nomination. Students may apply directly to the Academy.
“Anticipating and Preventing Deadly Attacks on European Jewish Communities,” is the title of a hearing to be held by the CSCE, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on Tuesday, April 19 at 1 p/.m. on Capitol Hill.
Violent anti-Semitic attacks doubled in some European countries between 2013 and 2014–in some others they quadrupled–and remained high in 2015. ISIS has instructed its followers to prioritize targeting European Jewish sites and killing European Jewish people. The terrorists who attacked the Jewish Museum of Belgium, Great Synagogue in Copenhagen, and kosher supermarket in Paris, all claimed ISIS allegiance. Other Islamist terrorist groups are similarly committed and Neo-Nazis, fringe nationalists, and people across the religious and ideological spectrum have committed violence against European Jewish communities.
The hearing will also focus on lessons from the partnerships between Jewish communities and law enforcement agencies that can help counter terrorism and improve security in European countries more broadly.
Who: Members of the Commission, and witnesses:
When: Tuesday, April 19 at 1 p.m.
Where: Cannon Office Building, Room 210 (first floor)
Gao Zhisheng’s account of the torture he experienced is shocking, offensive, and inhumane. From the time he was first arrested in 2006 until his provisional release in 2014, Gao was regularly hooded and beaten, shocked with electric batons, had toothpicks inserted in his genitals, was sleep deprived and malnourished, and his life was threatened repeatedly by guards and fellow prisoners. Gao was tortured because he dared to represent persecuted Christians and Falun Gong and because he was critical of the China’s legal system.
Gao wanted what was best for China, but he got the worst.
Gao’s wife, Geng He, submitted testimony to this hearing and I urge you to all read it. It is for Gao Zhisheng, and the many other victims of torture, that we hold this hearing today.
We are here today to shine a light on the brutal, illegal, and dehumanizing use of torture in China. We shine a light in a dictatorship because nothing good happens in the dark. And, as we will learn today, there are some very dark places in China were torture is used regularly to punish and intimidate political and religious prisoners and their lawyers.
We are also here to urge the U.S. government to make ending torture a higher priority in bilateral relations and to urge the Chinese government to fully enforce and implement its own laws. A country with China’s global leadership aspirations should not engage in horrific practices so thoroughly condemned by the international community.
As our witnesses will describe today in great detail, the use of torture is pervasive in China’s detention facilities and criminal justice system.
Torture is used to extract confession for prosecution and to coerce the televised “public confessions” we have seen too often in the past year.
Torture is also used to punish those political prisoners the Chinese security forces view as destabilizing forces. Under Xi Jinping, there has been an expansion in the number of individuals and groups viewed as threats to national security.
The victims of torture are very often human rights advocates and lawyers, union activists, members of non-state-controlled Christian churches, Falun Gong practitioners, and members of ethnic minority groups, like the Tibetans and Uyghurs.
Chinese officials repeatedly tell me I should focus more on the positive aspects of China’s human rights and not on the negative. That is a difficult task when you read Gao Zhisheng’s story or read the testimony of our witnesses Golog Jigme and Yin Liping.
Nevertheless, I want to recognize the changes made recently to China’s criminal procedure law that prohibits the use of confessions obtained through torture and the requirement to videotape interrogations in major cases.
According to Human Rights Watch, judges’ videotaped interrogations are routinely manipulated—and police torture the suspects first and then tape the confession.
And as Professor Margaret Lewis will testify today, “Preliminary indications are, however, that recording interrogations is not significantly changing the culture of extreme reliance on confessions as the primary form of evidence in criminal cases. When I viewed an interrogation room in a Beijing police station last October, the staff was keep to point out the videotaping technology. What I could not help but notice was the slogan “truthfully confess and your whole body will feel at ease” that was written in large characters on the floor in front of the metal, constraining interrogation chair, otherwise known as a “tiger chair.” Faced with this slogan during prolonged questioning makes crystal clear to the suspects that there is no right to silence in Chinese law.”
Perhaps there may be Chinese officials who want to end the use of torture in detention facilities and curtail the force and influence of the Public Security Bureau, their efforts should be encouraged and supported, but as with so many other things in China—with each step forward there is another step or two back.
China’s laws are too often either selectively implemented or completely ignored by security forces and the courts.
Security forces, faced with end of labor camps, created new forms of extra-legal detention—such as ‘black jails’ or “residential surveillance in an undisclosed location”—where torture can continue without oversight or interruption.
Until suspects have lawyers at interrogations, until all extra-legal detention centers are abolished, and police and public security forces are held accountable for abuse, China’s existing laws will continued to be undermined by existing practice.
The U.S. government must find effective ways to address this issue urgently and at the highest levels, because hundreds of thousands of China’s people are victims of shockingly cruel, illegal, and inhumane activities.
Last week, the White House said that President Obama “re-iterated America’s unwavering support for upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms in China.”
President Obama has only a couple more meeting with President Xi before his Administration ends. He should make ending torture a priority. This issue touches on so many other human rights issues that are also critical ones for U.S. economic and security interests in China: A) protecting the rights of political prisoners. B) The right of due process and the arrest of human rights lawyers. C) Curtailing police powers and the expansion of national security laws to include peaceful reform advocates. D) Encouraging an independent judiciary. E) Protections for the freedom of expression and religious freedom. F) Encouraging establishment of the rule of law in China
Torture will not end until the price of bad domestic publicity is too high for China’s leaders to ignore or China’s leaders understand the use of torture harms their global interests. On this last point, only the U.S. has the ability to deliver such a blunt message to China.
President Obama should not hesitate to name names and shine a light on horrific practices that the Chinese government says it wants to end.
If nothing else, doing so would bolster the spirits of those prisoners of conscience who are rotting in Chinese jails. We know their jailers tell them repeatedly that the world has forgotten them.
As a Washington Post editorial concluded last week, private discussions about human rights are important, but so is public messaging. Autocrats and dictators need to know unequivocally that the U.S. sees the freedom of expression, the freedom of religion, the rule of law, transparency and an end to torture as critical interests, necessary for better bilateral relations, and linked to the expansion of mutual prosperity and integrated security.
Torture victims and experts on China’s legal and political system came to testify before the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), chaired by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), at a hearing today entitled China’s Pervasive Use of Torture. The hearing was held to shine a light on the pervasive use of torture in the Chinese criminal justice system, often targeting political dissidents, ethnic minorities, and human rights lawyers, and to urge the U.S. government to make ending torture an urgent priority in bilateral relations.
“We are here today to shine a light on the brutal, illegal, and dehumanizing use of torture in China,” Smith said. “We shine a light in a dictatorship because nothing good happens in the dark. And, as we will learn today, there are some very dark places in China were torture is used regularly to punish and intimidate political and religious prisoners and their lawyers. We are also here to urge the U.S. government to make ending torture a higher priority in bilateral relations and to urge the Chinese government to fully enforce and implement its own laws. A country with China’s global leadership aspirations should not engage in horrific practices so thoroughly condemned by the international community.
“As our witnesses will describe today in great detail, the use of torture is pervasive in China’s detention facilities and criminal justice system,” said Smith, who has held more than 50 hearings on human rights violations in China. “Torture is used to extract confession for prosecution and to coerce the televised ‘public confessions’ we have seen too often in the past year. Torture is also used to punish those political prisoners the Chinese security forces view as destabilizing forces. Under Xi Jinping, there has been an expansion in the number of individuals and groups viewed as threats to national security. The victims of torture are very often human rights advocates and lawyers, union activists, members of non-state-controlled Christian churches, Falun Gong practitioners, and members of ethnic minority groups, like the Tibetans and Uyghurs.” Smith’s opening remarks can be found here.
Witnesses included two victims of torture. Tibetan Buddhist monk Golog Jigme (also known as Jigme Gyatso) discussed the torture inflicted on him in a Chinese prison and provided a picture of the infamous “tiger chair” used to constrain him and other torture victims. Yin Liping, a Falun Gong practitioner, was incarcerated in the notorious Masanjia Labor Camp, an extra-legal detention center used to hold political and religious prisoners. She described months of horrific physical and sexual abuse inflicted on her and her cellmates by prison guards and male prisoners. Additional witnesses included Margaret K. Lewis from Seton Hall University Law School who discussed recent legal reforms in China intended to end the use of torture in detention and the difficulties implementing those reforms, and Sophie Richardson from Human Rights Watch, who discussed recent research on the extensive use of torture in China and made recommendations for U.S. diplomacy with China. Video of the hearing can be found here.
Witness Yin Liping, a Falun Gong practitioner from Liaoning Province, China testified about her horrific story to the panel.
“I was arrested seven times in China, tortured to the verge of death six times, and detained in labor camps three times, where I was made to do slave labor for nine months,” she said. “I was sexually attacked and humiliated, and videotaped by a group of male prisoners in police custody, all because I refused to give up my faith in Falun Gong.” Click here to read Yin Liping’s testimony.
Golog Jigme testified about his multiple detainments and brutal torture.
“I urge the CECC and the US Congress to continue to pay attention to the human rights situation in Tibet,” he said. “I was tortured continuously. I was forced to sit in the ‘tiger chair,’ (also known as the ‘iron chair’) day and night. This was the worst form of torture I experienced during my three detentions,” noting that he still has scars from the torture device. Click here to hear Golog Jigme’s testimony. Click here to view an illustration of the “tiger chair.”
Lewis, Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law, said that the nearly one-hundred-percent conviction rate in China underscores that the determination of guilt in practice occurs before a defendant enters the courtroom.
“Any movement towards establishing a presumption of innocence has been further undermined by the disturbing practice of televised confessions, effectively replacing formal court proceedings with public shaming,” she said. “The United States needs to keep showing up and standing up for the principles that are core both to our country’s values and more generally to international human rights norms. When the Chinese government will not engage, we still need to make our voice heard.” Click here to read Lewis’s testimony.
Click here to read a statement from CECC Co-Chair Marco Rubio. Witness testimonies and the archived video of the hearing will be made available here.
Geng He, the wife of tortured prisoner Gao Zhisheng, submitted testimony to the hearing and Smith urged all read it: “It is for Gao Zhisheng, and the many other victims of torture, that we hold this hearing today.” Click here to read Geng’s testimony.
“China’s laws are too often either selectively implemented or completely ignored by security forces and the courts,” Smith said. “Security forces, faced with end of labor camps, created new forms of extra-legal detention—such as ‘black jails’ or ‘residential surveillance in an undisclosed location’—where torture can continue without oversight or interruption. Until suspects have lawyers at interrogations, until all extra-legal detention centers are abolished, and police and public security forces are held accountable for abuse, China’s existing laws will continued to be undermined by existing practice.
“The U.S. government must find effective ways to address this issue urgently and at the highest levels, because hundreds of thousands of China’s people are victims of shockingly cruel, illegal, and inhumane activities,” the Congressman said.
The CECC, established by the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000 as China prepared to enter the WTO, is mandated by U.S. law to monitor human rights, including worker rights, and the development of the rule of law in China. Its members are a bipartisan combination of Congress and White House appointees.
2373 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Elected in 1980, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Robbinsville, N.J.) is currently in his 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and serves residents in the Fourth Congressional District of New Jersey. Smith, 60, currently serves as a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and is chairman of its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee. In 2011-2012 he chaired both the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He also serves as “Special Representative” on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Veterans Committee (two terms) and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Operations and the Subcommittee on Africa.
Smith has long chaired a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses (working groups) including the Pro-life (31 years), Autism (15 years), Alzheimer’s (13 years), Lyme Disease (nineyears), Spina Bifida (nine years), Human Trafficking (nine years), Refugees (nine years), and Combating Anti-Semitism caucuses, and serves on caucuses on Bosnia, Uganda and Vietnam.
According to the independent watchdog organization Govtrack, as of January 2014 Smith ranks fourth among all 435 Members of the House over the last two decades in the number of laws authored.
He is the author of America’s three landmark anti-human trafficking laws including The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a comprehensive law designed to prevent modern-day slavery, protect victims, and enhance civil and criminal penalties against traffickers, as well as more than a dozen veterans health, education and homeless benefits laws, and laws to boost embassy security, promote democracy, religious freedom, and health care.
Smith is the author of the $265 million Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 which established a nationwide program for ethical research and treatment using umbilical cord blood and bone marrow cells. That landmark law was reauthorized in September 2010 for another five years.
In October 2011, Smith’s bill, HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011, was signed into law (Public Law PL112-32), a follow-up to his Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology Act (ASSURE) of 2000.
A lifelong New Jerseyan, Congressman Smith graduated from The College of New Jersey with a degree in business administration. Prior to being elected to Congress, he helped run a small business– his family’s wholesale sporting goods corporation. He is also the former Executive Director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee.
The congressman is married to his wife of 35 years, Marie, and they have four grown children.
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