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Posts from July 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The many daunting challenges facing the African continent and U.S. foreign policy were the topics of a congressional hearing held today by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees U.S. policy in Africa and international human rights.

Smith chaired a hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights called “Coordinating Africa Policy on Security, Counterterrorism, Humanitarian Operations and Development.” He noted that despite the wave of African independence in the 1950s through the 1970s, many American policymakers did not believe Africa held strategic importance to the United States. Today, with the increase in both global terrorism and global trade, Africa’s role has evolved. Aircraft, automobile and computer parts rely on minerals found in Africa, and in some cases, almost nowhere else in the world. Additionally, U.S. oil imports from Africa comprise nearly a quarter of all American oil imports.

“African nations have abundant minerals on which our modern society relies,” Smith said. “In recent years, the mineral coltan, largely coming from Africa, has enabled the development of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.

“Since the 1998 bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, it has become clear that terrorism can strike the United States even in Africa. In fact, the presence of Africans on the list of planners of the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks demonstrates that terrorism in Africa is not confined to Africa itself and can reach out to strike us even in our homeland,” Smith said. “The creation of the African Command, or AFRICOM, demonstrates the current awareness of the strategic importance of Africa not only for the United States but for the world in general.” Click here to read Smith’s opening remarks.Rep. Smith's opening remarks

Testifying before Congress were: Donald Y. Yamamoto, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, who heads the Bureau of African Affairs; Vicki Huddleston, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and; Sharon Cromer, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator at the Bureau for Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Yamamoto's Testimony

“We are currently witnessing some of the greatest changes on the African continent since the era of independence. These changes present both challenges and opportunities, and since its inception in October 2008, AFRICOM has been a critical partner for the Department of State in addressing conflict and transnational issues across Africa,” Yamamoto said. “Given the important role militaries play in the region, AFRICOM’s work is critical to the success of our Administration's broader efforts to build a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Africa.” To read Yamamoto’s testimony, click here.

Huddleston noted USAFRICOM’s objective is to build or strengthen a partner nation’s ability to counter extremism, provide for the security of their citizens and contribute to peace keeping. AFRICOM is a Department of Defense (DoD) command for U.S. military support to U.S. government policy in Africa, which includes military-to-military relationships with 54 African nations.

“AFRICOM enhances the capacity of our key African partners to provide a secure environment for democratic governance and development,” Huddleston said. Click here to read Huddleston’s testimony. “USAFRICOM’s security strategy ensures that our national interests are protected from potential threats on the African continent, while contributing to stability and security for the people of Africa.”

Cromer said USAID leads the development role in promoting democracy and good governance, fostering economic growth on the continent, and delivering humanitarian assistance to African countries.

“Africa faces some of the most serious security challenges in the world. In a 2010 assessment of 162 countries, the University of Maryland found that no region in the world has greater potential for conflict than Africa,” Cromer said. “Today’s world is more interconnected and complex than ever. Instability, poverty, and disease quickly travel across oceans and borders. Problems abroad all too quickly become problems at home, while a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous Africa benefits us all.” Click here to read Cromer’s testimony.Cromer's Testimony

Washington, D.C.— The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs will host a hearing next week entitled, “Why Taiwan Matters, Part II.” The Committee will hear from Administration officials on their assessment of the U.S. relationship with Taiwan, including Administration plans for provision of weapons to meet Taiwan’s defense needs as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act. The hearing will also allow the Committee to examine overall U.S. policy objectives in the Western Pacific.

When:
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
10:00 a.m.

Where:
2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Who:

The Honorable Kurt Campbell
Assistant Secretary of State East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State

The Honorable Derek Mitchell
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs
U.S. Department of State



YOU ASK A QUESTION: For all Full Committee hearings, members of the public are invited to submit questions for the witness(es) through the Committee’s “You Ask a Question” online feature. The Committee will review the questions, and some questions may be asked by Members on behalf of the submitter. To participate, please visit: Committee: You ask a Question Feature

NOTE: Hearings held in Room 2172 of the Rayburn H.O.B. are available via live video through the Committee’s website at: http://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/. TV and Radio outlets must register with the House Radio-TV Gallery on Monday, August 1, 2011 after 4pm. Please call 202-225-5214 to register. Print reporters may contact Andrew Lee Email Andrew Lee to reserve a seat at the press table.

Washington, DC – This week, freshman Congressman Jeff Duncan introduced multiple amendments to the FY12 Foreign Relations Authorization Act that passed the full House Foreign Affairs Committee. Each of the amendments passed and were adopted into the final version of the bill that passed out of the full committee late Thursday evening.

“Our government borrows $0.43 cents of every dollar we spend as a nation, and some in Congress still think we’re the world’s piggy bank” said Duncan. “We’re $14.3 trillion in debt. Why should we pay countries to hate us when they’ve shown they’re willing to do it for free?”

One of Duncan’s amendments bars funding for governments who oppose the United States position a majority of the time in the United Nations.

Another Duncan amendment, which he co-authored with Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), requires stricter financial accountability for foreign aid projects. Currently, most foreign aid projects are not required to report how much money is being spent, in which country, or who is in charge of administering the funds. The Duncan/Poe Amendment requires every project to be able to provide this basic information on a website for all Americans to see. Additionally, Duncan introduced a related amendment that requires for-profit USAID contractors who receive more than half of their funding from the government to disclose how much money their top five employees earn. This is to insure that the majority of aid money given actually reaches the area of need and doesn't go into the pockets of contractors.

Congressman Duncan also introduced another amendment that prohibits any funding for the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates. Duncan’s amendment ensures that no American tax dollars go to that organization.

Finally, Duncan introduced an amendment to elevate the importance of international religious freedom in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Duncan’s amendment would require that UNHCR conduct a review of refugee-based claims and provide religious freedom training to their staff to prevent future grief for refugees on religious freedom grounds.

“Today, we are taking serious steps to reform our foreign aid programs,” Duncan said. “As a nation, we are more than $14 trillion in debt. Yet some Democrats still want to send large amounts of tax dollars overseas to people who hate us. These amendments are a good step in the right direction for our country. The United States has no business giving money away to countries and groups who seek to do us harm.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Foreign Affairs Committee today adopted an amendment by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) calling for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Japan for the immediate return of the approximately 156 U.S. children currently being held in Japan against the wishes of their American parent, and in many cases in violation of valid U.S. court orders.


“The amendment passed today makes it clear that the United States must, by way of an MOU with Japan, or any other appropriate means, seek the immediate return of U.S. children abducted to Japan,” said Smith (NJ-04), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its human rights subcommittee. “Abducted children are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems. The U.S. government has a duty to protect these children and fight for their parents who have a right and want to meet their responsibilities of raising their own children.” Click here to view the amendment.


Smith said Japan has become known as a haven for international child abduction. “Tragically, Japan has become a black hole for children whose Japanese parent—or in some cases non-Japanese parent—decided not to abide by the laws of the United States and rather to run to a jurisdiction where they would not have to share custody, or even permit visitation of the child by the child’s other parent. Japan has historically been complicit in these abductions, offering protection without investigation.”


Smith said Japan’s recent announcement that it will finally sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is welcomed but pointed out that the Convention, by its own terms, will only apply to future cases.

“If and when Japan ratifies the Hague, and I hope they do, such action, unfortunately will not be sufficient to address the existing abduction cases,” said Smith, who led a human rights mission to Japan this past February and met with government leaders as well as American parents blocked from seeing their children in Japan. “A Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Japan is urgently needed to ensure that families are reunited and left behind parents are not left behind again.”


During the debate on his a amendment, Smith spoke of the current abduction cases involving Japan including the case of New Jersey resident and former Marine Sgt. Michael Elias, whose children Jade and Michael were abducted to Japan by his estranged wife in 2008. He has not held them since or been allowed any communication with them in over a year.


“Additionally, my amendment calls on the Secretary of State to take any and all other appropriate measures to enable left behind parents direct access and communications with their children wrongfully removed to or retained in Japan. These children must be allowed to have a relationship with their American parent—the arbitrary deprivation they currently suffer is child abuse,” Smith said.


The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously adopted the amendment demanding an MOU as part of legislation controlling foreign aid. The bill is expected to move to the House Floor.


In September 2010 Smith cosponsored and managed the debate in the House chamber on a similar bipartisan measure, H. Res. 1326, calling on the Government of Japan to resolve the many cases involving over American children abducted to Japan. The bill passed 416-1.


Smith also has been working to push Congress and the Administration to better address international child abductions in Japan and elsewhere. After returning from Brazil in Dec. 24, 2009 with abducted child Sean Goldman and his left behind New Jersey dad who had been deprived of his son for five years, Smith introduced “The International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2011”, H.R. 1940, and is working for passage of the bill.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee debated the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, a bill that authorizes funding for the U.S. Department of State. Importantly, this bill contains language offered by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) calling on the State Department to relist Vietnam as a "Country of Particular Concern" for violations of religious freedom.

"Passage of this bill is an important step to putting the House of Representatives on record as supporting religious freedom in Vietnam. We need to send a message to the State Department that the status quo in Vietnam is unacceptable," said Royce.

"Some have seen positive steps in Vietnam, but frankly, I don't see it. Religious freedom remains under attack. The Communist government continues to harass and physically abuse worshipers who don't follow every last state sanctioned rule," Royce stated.

Royce’s language was kept in the bill despite efforts to remove it. Royce led a spirited debate in Committee, helping to defeat an amendment to strike his language critical of Vietnam offered by a Member who defended the Vietnamese government's human rights record.

NOTE: Royce is the author of H.Res.16 which calls on the State Department to place Vietnam on the list of "Countries of Particular Concern" for violations of religious freedom.

Rep. Ed Royce is a senior member on the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee. Additionally, Royce serves on the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam and the Caucus on Human Rights.

Mack Uses Power of the Purse to Shape Responsible Foreign Policy

WASHINGTON – Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Connie Mack (Fl-14) today pushed five amendments in a full committee mark up of The Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2012 to bring fiscal discipline to the nation’s foreign policy and cease aid to those countries which harm America’s freedom and security.

Mack’s five amendments would:

Eliminate foreign aid funds for Argentina, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Boliviia
Cease U.S. contributions to the Organization of American States.
Eliminate U.S. funding for Global Climate Change Initiative Activities.
Establish a Congressional recorded vote which states “The delay in the authorization of the Presidential Permit is threatening the economic and national security benefits of the Keystone XL Pipeline.”
Name Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism due to its continued material and financial support of the Revolutionary ArmedForces of Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah, the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Mack stated: "Let's engage our allies and friends, but let's not continue to support organizations and countries that perpetuate destruction of freedom and democracy,” Mack said.

“With our financial house in disarray in our homeland, the least the Congress and the President can do is streamline our foreign dollars to our allies and engage in efforts to improve our economy at home; such as, the immediate passage of the pending Free Trade Agreements with Colombia and Panama. Additionally, with American businesses saddled with environmental protections already, other countries should do their part to improve the global climate, not just the U.S.” Mack added.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened a markup for H.R. 2583, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, at which Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) spoke in favor of a successful amendment offered by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) that calls upon the government of Turkey to end religious discrimination, allow religious prayer and education, and return stolen church property. The amendment text was taken from H. Res. 306, legislation Royce introduced with Rep. Berman on June 15, 2011.

"Religious minorities are under grave threat in today's Turkey. Turkey is 99 percent Muslim. But rather than enjoying protection, very vulnerable religious minority groups including the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church are denied full legal status," said Royce.

Royce added, "This amendment calls on Turkey to allow all Turks to practice their faiths, return stolen church properties, and allow property owners to repair their churches. In Turkey, it is illegal for religious minority groups to study, practice, or teach one’s own faith. If religious needs cannot be met, religious minority groups will decline, as they have, and in some cases—cease to exist. Turkey has an international obligation to see that this doesn't happen."

The amendment was accepted by the Committee. The next stop for H.R. 2583 is consideration on the floor of the House of Representatives. Royce's H. Res. 306 --opposed by the Turkish government-- has 35 co-sponsors.

Royce noted, "Today we had a win. I'm going to push for a bigger win though, and that's passage of H. Res. 306, the Royce-Berman bill."

Rep. Ed Royce is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenia.

Washington, DC (July 13, 2011) – Since being elected to Congress, Gus has made it one of his top priorities to be a voice for all religious minorities wherever they may be persecuted and to continuously work in a bipartisan manner with his colleagues to condemn violations of religious freedom throughout the world.

On Wednesday, Gus addressed religious persecution at a conference sponsored by the International Coalition for Religious Freedom and the Washington Times.

Prepared remarks are pasted below. Watch a video of the presentation here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhadzdJ0q08

Good morning and thank you so much for allowing me to speak before you on this very important issue. Religious persecution is an issue that personally touches me inasmuch as I have had family and friends who have been victims of religious persecution.

That’s why I have made it a feature of my service in the U.S. House of Representatives to be a voice for all religious minorities wherever they may be persecuted in the world from Cuba to China.

As a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and a member of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, I have worked together in a bipartisan manner with my colleagues to condemn violations of religious freedom throughout the world. I know my time is limited, but I would like to highlight a couple of countries that have been, in my opinion, gross oppressors of religious freedom.

I have been a strong advocate for Falun Gong practitioners and year after year have called upon the communist regime in china to join the world of nations by allowing even basic human rights for religious minorities. Today’s event is fitting since this week we are commemorating the 12th anniversary of the Falun Gong crackdown by the PRC.

To be taken seriously as a participant in the twenty-first century global economy, China must take the rights of their citizens seriously. Egregious injustices, such as those suffered by the Falun Gong practitioners and others targeted by the Chinese Communist Party, are unacceptable in a civilized world and must end today.

Also, unacceptable are the continued violations of religious and human rights that the Republic of Turkey has perpetrated against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Holy See for over 300 million Orthodox faithful worldwide. The government of Turkey has failed to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s international status; it has limited to Turkish nationals the candidates available to the Holy Synod for selection as the Ecumenical Patriarchate; it has failed to reopen the Theological School at Halki, thus impeding training for the clergy; and has confiscated 75 percent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate properties.

This type of behavior from a so-called secular democracy is deplorable in today’s world. I will continue to call for the government of Turkey to: Grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate appropriate international recognition and ecclesiastic succession; Grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate the right to train clergy of all nationalities, not just Turkish nationals; and, Respect human rights and property rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Further as it relates to Turkey, late last year before the 111th Congress adjourned, I was able to pass H Res 1631 which called for the protection of religious sites and artifacts from and in Turkish-occupied areas of northern Cyprus as well as for general respect for religious freedom. It held the Government of Turkey responsible for the continued violations of humanitarian law with respect to the destruction of religious and cultural property. I am happy to say that it passed unanimously with strong bipartisan support.

The resolution caught the eye of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. As a result, the Commission embarked on a fact-finding mission to the northern occupied territory.

Chairman Leonard Leo and members of the commission prepared a report which echoed the sad truth that we had outlined in our resolution. I am so thankful that the greater community at large is starting to take notice of what all of us have known for decades.

Unfortunately China and Turkey are just two examples in a world full of oppressive governments which continue to persecute religious minorities for simply trying to engage in one of the most basic of human endeavors: the right to worship freely.

I commend the Washington Times for being a consistent singular voice in the vast media that reports with integrity and courage on the plight of the voiceless.

Together with you, I will continue to support the inalienable right to freedom of religion and expression recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that applies to all people.

Thank you and God bless.

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