Government Report on Modern Slavery Ignores Diplomats

The “2010 TIP Report” which condemns some countries for not doing enough to combat modern-day slavery, goes easy on one group: foreign diplomats who are accused of abusing servants on U.S. soil. As E. Benjamin Skinner reveals at Time Magazine, the report apparently ignores a Congressional mandate that says the State Department must specifically name cases where diplomats are accused of using forced labor while living in the United States.

The mandate was spurred by the case of diplomat Alan Mzengi, who was convicted of forcing a 20-year-old woman to be his domestic slave in his Bethesda, Maryland, home for four years after confiscating her passport. The woman, Zipora Mazengo, said she was beaten by the diplomat’s wife and performed more than 100 hours of work a week for no pay. She won $1 million in damages from Mzengi, who promptly disappeared back to Tanzania and never paid, Skinner writes. Because diplomats are immune from prosecution in their  in most cases, human-trafficking cases are often thrown out by the courts, Mazengo’s lawyer told the Washington Post.

The Government Accountability Office said the State Department had insufficiently responded to the complaints of more than 40 domestic workers between 2000 and 2008 who said foreign diplomats had abused them in the United States. The 2008 reauthorization of the nation’s anti-trafficking law, included a provision that protected servants of diplomats, Skinner writes, and a provision tacked onto another bill said “the Secretary should include all trafficking cases involving [servants of diplomats] in the Trafficking in Persons annual report where a final civil judgment has been issued.”

The Department includes a section on abuses by diplomats “worldwide,” but does not name specific cases. The section says the U.S. government is taking “a number of steps” to combat the problem.

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who heads up the State’s anti-trafficking efforts, defended the omission, telling Skinner the Obama administration had done more than any other administration to combat trafficking. In 2009, the State Department said diplomats would only be allowed to bring domestic servants into the country if they could prove they were paying them, reported the Washington ExaminerPayments would have to be made by check so they could be tracked.

— Liz Goodwin is a national affairs writer for Yahoo! News.

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