US political influence skewed human trafficking rankings - report
International news agency, Reuters, is reporting that there may have been political interference in the process by which the United States ranked some countries this year for their efforts to combat human trafficking.
Several global human rights groups and campaigners have been criticising the 2015 Trafficking in Persons report which was released last month, for ranking some countries including Malaysia and Cuba, higher than expected.
Jamaica has raised concerns about its Tier 2 watchlist ranking, which local authorities believe does not reflect the efforts made in the past year to fight the crime.
In a report today, Reuters, claimed that the US government office set up to independently grade countries, was repeatedly overruled by senior American diplomats.
According to the report, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was pressured into inflating assessments of 14 strategically important countries in this year’s report.
The Reuters report did not address concerns raised by countries such as Jamaica which claim their 2015 rankings are unfair.
However, it alleges that Malaysia, Cuba, China, India, Uzbekistan and Mexico ended up with better grades than the State Department’s human-rights experts wanted to give them.
Most of those countries were removed from the lowest ranking of Tier 3, which meant that up to a year ago, they were failing to comply with the minimum US standards to fight human trafficking.
Critics argue that there has been no objective reason for the improvement in countries such as Cuba with whom the US is now re-establishing diplomatic ties or Malaysia with whom the US is pursuing a major trade deal.
According to Reuters, a US senator has threatened to call for a Senate hearing and an inspector general to investigate the report.
Meanwhile, last week, a representative of the US Embassy in Kingston, Rebecca Molinoff, told The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre that the State Department takes the concerns raised seriously.
But she insisted that the report contained sufficient evidence to support the ranking of countries.