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September 10 – U.S. House of Representatives, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Rayburn Building Room 2200 1-3 PM – Mu Sochua, Cambodian Parliamentarian, human rights advocate and Vital Voices Global Leadership Award Honoree appears before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission as a witness in a hearing entitled, ‘Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Cambodia’.

As international governments, news agencies, and UN rights experts including the Special Rapporteur on the independence of lawyers and judges have recently reported, there is concern in Cambodia regarding attempts to curtail the rights and freedoms of lawyers, journalists, and members of the political opposition.

A 2008 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report indicates that Cambodian government enforcement of certain laws has been selective, and The Washington Post reported on July 29 that “a heightened crackdown on journalists and opposition activists… has provoked new concern that the government is engaging in widespread abuse of the nation’s legal system to muzzle its detractors.” In addition, the June 2009 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released by the U.S. Department of State, ranks Cambodia as a Tier 2 Watch List nation, marking a regression from the previous year’s ranking that indicates efforts to combat human trafficking have not been adequate or proven effective. Cambodia is a source, transit and destination country for victims of human trafficking for the purpose of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.

Parliamentarian and opposition party member Mu Sochua will present testimony on the condition of human rights and the rule of law in her native Cambodia from the perspective of a lawmaker and internationally recognized advocate for equal rights and democracy.

The hearing will take place in Room 2200 in the Rayburn House Office Building from 1-3 pm on September 10.

Mu Sochua

Mu Sochua returned to her native Cambodia in 1991 after 18 years in exile, and has worked tirelessly ever since as one of her country’s leading advocates for human rights, working to stop human trafficking, domestic violence and worker exploitation. She joined the newly formed government, eventually becoming the Minister of Veterans and Women’s Affairs – and one of only two women serving in the Cabinet. While serving in the government, Mu negotiated two international agreements with neighboring countries to help curtail human trafficking in Southeast Asia and launched a campaign to bring NGOs, law enforcement officials and rural women into a national dialogue and education program to help protect women and girls victimized by trafficking and boost prevention efforts nationwide. In 2005, Mu Sochua was co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sex trafficking of women in Cambodia and neighboring Thailand.

Vital Voices honored Mu SochuaåŹwith the 2005 Human Rights Global Leadership Award for her efforts to stem the tide of human trafficking. To highlight her work, Mu Sochua, was profiled in Seven, a documentary play written by seven recognized women playwrights that tells the stories of 7 Vital Voices Global Leadership Network Members.

Vital Voices Global Partnership

Vital Voices Global Partnership is a leading NGO that identifies, trains, mentors and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world. Vital Voices works with women defending human rights, expanding economic opportunities and strengthening government and civil society by equipping them with the capacity, connections, and credibility they need to unlock their leadership potential. Since 1997 the Vital Voices staff and team of over 1,000 partners and pro-bono experts and leaders, including senior government, corporate and NGO executives, have trained and mentored more than 7,000 emerging women leaders from 127 countries. Vital Voices has a four star Charity Navigator rating, awarded to charities that exceed industry standards and outperform other organizations in their field.

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

The mission of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments. In particular, the Commission shall:

Develop congressional strategies to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms reflecting the role and responsibilities of the United States Congress.

Raise greater awareness of human rights issues among Members of Congress and their staff, as well as the public.

Provide expert human rights advice to Members of Congress and their staff

Advocate on behalf of individuals or groups whose human rights are violated or are in danger of being violated.

Collaborate closely with professional staff of relevant congressional committees on human rights matters.

Collaborate closely with the President of the United States and the Executive Branch, as well as recognized national and international human rights entities, to promote human rights initiatives in the United States