By Master Sgt. Charles D. Larkin, USAF United States European Command Stuttgart, Germany, May 5, 2015
Three years ago, United States European Command (EUCOM) consolidated several military installations located throughout Europe. As installations closed and buildings were emptied, office furniture, computers, beds, and other furniture and equipment piled up in warehouses, like the one operated by the US-Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in Italy.
Thanks to the efforts of EUCOM and DSCA, some of those items were recently given a new home in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. Personnel from the U.S. Embassy to Ukraine, EUCOM officials, and members of local Ukrainian government and non-government organizations gathered at the brand-new Vinnytsia Community Education Center for an inauguration ceremony on April 27.
The project began in 2012 as a request from a local non-government organization. They wanted a resource center in their area to focus on public health and youth education for socially-vulnerable individuals. Additionally, the community center also addresses the problems of internal displaced persons (IDP) and human trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation — often referred to as a modern-day form of slavery — is a multi-billion dollar criminal activity in Ukraine. Trafficking of women and children for this type of exploitation is a serious problem affecting hundreds of thousands of victims and their families. Continue reading “Three Years, Two Partner Nations, One Mission”→
Posted by: Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, State Department Читати українською
On January 1st in the United States, we marked the 150th anniversary of the date President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that millions of men, women, and children held in slavery were forever free. A century and a half later, President Obama said that through the Proclamation, Lincoln “reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to the enduring cause of freedom. Then as now, we remain steadfast in our resolve to see that all men, women, and children have the opportunity to realize this greatest of gifts.”
Yet we are still a long way from achieving the vision of a world free from all contemporaneous forms of slavery. As many as 27 million people are victims of modern-day slavery, also known as trafficking in persons. This crime appears in many ways. It could be the abuse of domestic workers trapped in their employers’ homes or the enslavement of a man on a fishing boat. It could be the prostitution of a young girl in a brothel or the compelled service of a boy as a child soldier. Whatever form it takes, at its core human trafficking is a crime of exploitation that robs its victims of their freedom and dignity. Modern slavery occurs in every country in the world, and every government has a responsibility to respond to it.
The Obama Administration is committed to fighting modern slavery at home and around the world using the “3P” approach—prosecuting traffickers, protecting their victims, and preventing this crime in the future. We’re also eager to partner with governments that take this problem seriously, and we are working with stakeholders in civil society, the faith community, and the private sector, which all bring unique capabilities and expertise to this struggle. A major part of our work is raising awareness about this issue and promoting greater activism in finding, stopping, and preventing this crime.
We’re driving this effort as part of our commemoration of Emancipation. The State Department joined with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio to produce a film, Journey to Freedom, which shows the parallels between trafficking in persons and historical slavery in the United States. From Congo to Mexico to Nepal, our embassies and consular posts have opened their doors to share this film, shine a light on this problem, and encourage more people to contribute to the battle against modern day slavery.
This film is available to view online at http://www.state.gov/j/tip, and I encourage you to take the time to see how this problem affects all our communities today.
After all, it’s going to take all of us–learning how to identify this crime, knowing what to do when we see it, and preventing it from harming our communities–if we’re going to succeed in the fight against modern slavery. And this struggle deserves nothing less than our full support. As President Obama said, the “fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.” The United States remains committed to this work, and we hope you will be our partner in this effort.
Like most people, I like to think weekends are best when they offer time to relax with my family, but there are times when my job requires me to fill the time with a full schedule and travel and I do not mind. A wonderful example occurred June 3-7, when Mariella and I visited Odessa, one of my favorite cities in Ukraine. This was my third time in the famed seaside town. Like last summer, the main purpose of the visit was to support the joint U.S.-Ukrainian naval exercises known as Sea Breeze, but our time was spent doing much more. We had a very busy weekend, joining a group of Ambassadors for part of a program organized by the Ukrainian Directorate General for Services of Foreign Missions (GDIP). For example, on Friday evening we were treated to a performance at the Odessa Opera House, which I have been told is a close architectural cousin of the opera in Vienna. Mariella and I are both great fans of the ballet, and seeing Odessa’s young ballet stars up close was a wonderful experience.
The FBI recently concluded a successful investigation and prosecution of U.S. citizen Edgar J. Steele for charges stemming from his attempts to hire a hitman to kill his wife in 2008. The FBI’s investigation determined Steele hired Larry Fairfax, a handyman, to place a bomb in Cyndi Steele’s vehicle. When the bomb failed to detonate, Steele discussed with Fairfax his desire for his wife to die in a car accident. Fairfax eventually brought the plot to the attention of local authorities and the FBI. Department of Justice prosecutors believed Steele’s motive for the plot involved his desire to have a new wife without losing portions of his assets in a divorce settlement. The FBI investigation determined Steele was looking for his new wife in Ukraine. Because of the case’s connection to Ukraine, U.S.-based investigators sought assistance from the FBI’s Legal Attaché’s office in Kyiv and the Legal Attaché’s contacts with Ukrainian law enforcement authorities.
As part of the evidence collected in the case, U.S.-based FBI agents recovered information that Steele was using on-line dating websites to find a new wife. When Steele’s dating interests appeared to include several women in Ukraine, the FBI’s Legal Attaché office in Kyiv worked with the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) to identify and interview one of the women in contact with Steele. Working with little information, the Legal Attaché’s MVD contacts were able to locate and interview the woman who provided information corroborating the prosecution’s theory that Steele was actively seeking a new wife. Continue reading “FBI-Ukraine Cooperation Helps Secure Conviction in U.S. Murder-for-Hire Case”→
As a veteran of many countries of the former Soviet Union, I am interested in the history of this region, and I had the chance yesterday to visit a really remarkable city, which was one of the key centers of the Kyivan Rus period – Chernihiv. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Kyiv, and well worth the trip, especially on days like yesterday when the weather was clear and warm.
I kicked off my visit by cutting the ribbon on a new remote witness testimony system in the Chernihiv Court of Appeals. The court was outfitted with a separate witness room to allow victims of trafficking in persons, or other serious crime witnesses, to safely testify through video connection without having to directly face the defendant. Right now, only one third of trafficking victims in Ukraine cooperate with law enforcement, and the single biggest reason for not cooperating is concern over lack of protection. The system allows for voice or image distortion, although there is a monitor for the judges, so that they can see the individual clearly. The head of the Court of Appeals, Judge Sadih Tagiyev (an Open World exchange alumnus!), explained very well how this type of protection will allow his court to better meet international standards for witness support. And he already has big plans for the system – he’s planning on bringing in students to hold mock trials later this month. The system was funded through State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, and is one of five such systems installed by the International Organization for Migration. While it is aimed specifically at victims of Trafficking in Persons, the equipment has been used successfully elsewhere for witnesses of serious crimes, where confidentiality helps prevent them being re-victimized or feeling threatened by defendants. Continue reading “Chernihiv Visit: U.S.-Funded Program To Fight Human Trafficking and Meeting with Energetic Local Journalists”→
The Kyiv Academic Puppet Theatre felt enchanted on a recent snowy night, with brightly lit clock towers, snow-covered gardens and whimsical statues of children. Instead of taking in a child’s play with puppets moved about by the hands of actors, however, I experienced stories of “puppets” and “actors” of a very different kind – human beings being trafficked for profit and their captors. The International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Fifth Annual Combating Human Trafficking Awards Ceremony, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, was a sobering experience. The trafficking awards were held on Dec. 2, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, and were designed to draw attention to the problem of human trafficking, and to reward the courage and dedication of individuals and organizations who take action to combat it. Continue reading “Combating Human Trafficking Awards Ceremony”→