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Survivors Of Sexual Assault In Juvenile Detention Are Speaking Out

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The prevalence of sexual violence in the US prison system is so widespread and accepted that it’s often made the butt of jokes in popular culture. Yet the reality is that countless survivors of the prison system carry the scars and traumas of sexual abuse—and for many, the perpetrators of these crimes were the very prison staff charged with their protection. Juvenile victims of the prison system are no exception. In Maryland, several adult survivors of sexual abuse as juveniles in state custody have filed a class action lawsuit demanding justice. Lawyer and former DC Council Member LaRuby May joins Rattling the Bars to discuss the class action suit, and the systematic nature of sexual violence in prisons as a form of racial oppression.

Studio Production: David Hebden
Post-Production: Cameron Granadino


Transcript

The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Mansa Musa:

LaRuby May has been a vessel for change for over 30 years. The inspirational lawyer, entrepreneur, developer, teacher, and strategist found May Jung Law Firm alongside long-time friend and business partner Je Yon Jung. May Jung’s mission is to unapologetically advocate for people of color and empower them to be whole and active participants in the civil justice system. Prior to practicing law, LaRuby served as the council member representing Ward 8 in the District of Columbia. Her latest fight is around survivors of sexual abuse in Maryland, more specifically juveniles. Welcome to Rattling the Bars.

LaRuby May:

Thank you, thank you. Thank you for having me, Mansa. I appreciate being here.

Mansa Musa:

Okay. Let me give my audience some context: In 2023, the governor of the State of Maryland, Wes Moore, signed into law the Child Protection Act — You can unpack wherever I’m off track when you get on — Under this he eliminated the statute of limitation of being able to bring a civil suit against anyone that was an employee or contractor within the state of Maryland to bring a litigation against them for sexual abuse. This came on the heels of a report that this attorney general for the state of Maryland put out indicting the archdiocese of sexual abuse of children.

Prior to that, the advocacy was always around trying to get something done about child sexual abuse and trying to be able to get some compensation. But more importantly, try to make people aware that this was an ongoing thing and that people were harmed and damaged by this. It was only after the signing of this law that it became apparent that it wasn’t only the archdiocese but other institutions that were responsible and involved in abusing children; One institution was Juvenile Services, in particular. May, why did you choose to get in this space in particular? Because this space is fraught with problems on a lot of levels. Why did you choose to get in this space?

LaRuby May:

Thank you for that question. My law firm, May Jung, our motto is “Justice for our people is personal.” Having folks who’ve been touched by and part of the juvenile justice system, the Department of Corrections, that’s all very personal to me. You know what I mean? Whether or not it’s from family members, immediate family members, or other family members. The opportunity that we have as a law firm to be able to go and hold people accountable for harm — Specifically harm that’s happening disproportionately to Black and Brown folks, to Black and Brown children — Is the privilege that I have. So how dare I not get involved in being able to protect children? Specifically individuals who have been harmed while they were in the custody of the Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Services, or the state of Maryland.

We have a lawyer in our firm named Jessica who’s already done some work around child abuse in the state of Maryland. As you mentioned, once Governor Wes Moore signed the Maryland Child Victims Act into law in 2023 — And we’re based here in Washington D.C., man, that’s our backyard — We knew that the opportunity to get into this space as a Black and Brown woman-owned law firm, to fight for Black and Brown children, is something that it wasn’t optional for me, Mansa. I don’t get the opportunity, I don’t have the privilege to not fight when I see injustice. The privilege of being a lawyer gives me the right to say you know what? When our people have been harmed, let’s go and fight this fight. When this law went into place, what happened is now our brothers and sisters who are returning from home or who were in juvenile facilities, they now have the opportunity to file civil lawsuits related to child sexual abuse.

The talk about this was around the Catholic, the archdiocese, and children in the custody of their care; We weren’t looking at the overwhelmingly number of Black and Brown children that were in juvenile facilities who were also sexually abused by staff members and contractors. Quite frankly, some of these institutions knew that this was happening and they did nothing to protect our children.

Mansa Musa:

Let’s unpack this. We’re talking about a situation where, if you’ve got something that’s current, then you can be up on… This calls for identifying plaintiffs, and getting somebody to come forward and feel comfortable enough to get around the stigma attached to the victimization like when a person is raped. And this is a cliche but this is a reality when it comes to poor and oppressed people: As opposed to being victimized, you take the victim and say like, oh, had you not went this way, you would’ve never had this happen to you. It’s because you went down the wrong street that somebody came out and brutalized you in this system.

How do you go about identifying plaintiffs? What’s your methodology? And how do you help them understand the trauma and get them to understand that it’s their right to come forth and get the accuser? If it is more about I’m letting you know now, it might have happened 20 years ago but I’m now in your face to let you know that it was wrong, I had a problem with it, and — If I’m going to get compensated, so be it — I want people to know of what you did. How do you get people to come forward?

LaRuby May:

It’s hard. That’s why we’re grateful for folks like you who are in the space that are allowing us an opportunity to talk to folks in the space because identifying folks … We have folks that were abused as children and they have some of that shame and some of that victim mentality so they haven’t told folks. We have folks that have been abused when they were 13 and 14 years old and now they’re 40 years old and they’ve never told anyone because of the shame. That makes it difficult for them to say I was one of them — especially in Black men.

It’s a catch-22. If they were assaulted or molested by a woman, it makes it a little bit different; It’s almost like they’re not necessarily ashamed of that. But if they were abused, molested, or raped by a male, there’s definitely some stigma that comes around that for them and there’s shame to go and talk to folks about it. We continue to go out there, talk, and touch as many people as we can. And touch people that already have relationships with our brothers and sisters who were a part of the system and potentially violated by individuals in the system.

We’re going to continue to talk, we’re going to continue to empower people, and say this was not your faultl; You were a victim, you were a child. The state of Maryland was in charge of your care, they were responsible for making sure that you were rehabilitated, and we know what the systems are like, the rehabilitation of the system, and how it works and how it doesn’t work. But your family members, your mothers, the court system entrusted your care to the Department of Juvenile Services while you were there, while you were vulnerable. Many times, I’ve talked to some of our clients — Especially their first time going in — Who were scared.

Mansa Musa:

Right. Oh, that’s a reality.

LaRuby May:

Yeah, yeah. I’m scared and now I got these people who I’m supposed to be able to trust, these people who are supposed to help me are now violating me and taking advantage of that and it’s a large hurdle to overcome but that’s why we’re here.

Mansa Musa:

We’re talking about anyone that was employed in the state of Maryland — Anyone be it contractual or 1099, W2, anybody that was getting any money from the state of Maryland — That violated a kid or juvenile while they were under the care of Juvenile Services. But how do we look at the agency? Do we look at the Juvenile Services agent as being a defendant in it and we looking at Bobby Smith ETA or Department of Juvenile Services, Bobby Smith and all those involved or are we saying that we looking at just Bobby Smith?

LaRuby May:

We’re looking at everybody that’s involved because Bobby Smith was a bad person if he was the offender but many times the culture at the facility allowed for this to happen. The department was entrusted with the care. These individuals, they had obligations to train folks, monitor folks, and to make sure that they were putting non-offenders around our children, especially when they were in such vulnerable positions. So we want to hold everyone accountable: We want to hold the state accountable, we want to hold each facility accountable, and we want to hold all of the individuals accountable that did the harm. But ultimately, this is a systemic problem.

This isn’t us saying that this happened to one person a year or one person in the past 20 years — Thousands, literally thousands, of individuals who were in these 13 different facilities were molested, raped, and violated as children. It’s important to understand — Especially for the audience — You are a child, you were not an adult. No one deserves to be violated. Even if you’re an adult, you don’t deserve to be violated. But as a child especially, to be violated by any adult that was entrusted with your care.

Mansa, we’re not going to know; These young brothers and sisters, they’re not going to know whether or not you were an employee, 1099, worked for the state, or worked for the contractor. What they’re going to know is you were an adult that was supposed to be a counselor, admissions person, teacher, or kitchen staff. All they’re going to know is that you were an adult that took advantage of them, abused them, and most of the time they felt helpless and powerless to be able to fight against you and then to go and tell somebody. But we have clients who did go and tell. Do you know what happened when they told? Nothing.

The systemic issues within the facilities was such a part of the culture that it still went … We talked to folks that, when they told that someone abused them, that someone violated them, the child was transferred to a different facility and the individual was not held responsible. That’s what we’re very thankful to do right now. There are multiple firms that have filed litigation but we are very thankful to be the first firm and the only firm to have filed this as a class-action lawsuit because we want our individuals to get remedy, we want to hold folks accountable for the harm that they did to our young people, but, Mansa, we also want systemic change. We can’t accept it.

One of the great things in the leadership of Governor Wes Moore and Attorney General Brown in looking at removing the statute of limitations, that means this could have happened to you last week, last year, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or 50 years ago and because there are no statute of limitations, you can now bring those claims. But that’s not enough. We still have children that are getting abused as recently as —

Mansa Musa:

As we speak, yeah.

LaRuby May:

— Yeah, as we speak. We have to have changes in the system that are focused on protecting our children.

Mansa Musa:

This is a point that needs to be emphasized. We’re seeing this history around crime and we got this Herod mentality: Find the savior that’s supposed to come and kill all the firstborn. We got this firstborn mentality of lock all our kids up and throw away the key. It’s in that environment that this type of behavior festers because now you have a situation where you have children being locked up in astronomical numbers and being put into an environment where there’s not a lot of control in terms of what goes on. So in order to get that control, you become more abusive and that becomes your way of getting control. Locking kids in solitary confinement. And if you isolate them enough, get to the point where they’re mentally incapable of dealing with it and that opens the door for this type of behavior.

In this litigation, how do you all articulate that? You said it’s systemic, how do you all articulate that in your facts? How do you all make people aware that this is not isolated, that this is not whack, this is not Charles, this is not Hickey, this is not Boy’s Village, this is not this institution, this is a general mentality like the archdiocese. When they came out and indicted them, it became apparent throughout the country that this was a behavior that was going on, but you can juxtapose what’s going on with Black and Brown children in these juvenile facilities with the same thing. How do you all get people to understand that?

LaRuby May:

When it comes to the lawsuit — As we talk about all 13 facilities and whether or not these facilities have been closed or these facilities are still open — We recognize that it is not just one facility. It’s saying, we’ve got to look at all of the facilities that were ran by the department and look at all of the practices and all of the people in these facilities. If it were one isolated center then you’d be like, maybe it’s not systemic; But when we look across all of the systems, all of the facilities that were under the control or under the jurisdiction of the department, we see the theme is that it’s happening at every facility, that it’s happening to all of our children: It’s happening to boys, it’s happening to girls, and, unfortunately, the disproportionate number of Black and Brown children that are being incarcerated means that there’s going to be a disproportionate number of children that are violated who are also going to be Black and Brown children.

One of the things that we’ve failed our children on many times in these facilities is we’re locking them up and whatever the reason is that they got locked up, we’re not helping them deal and cope with the trauma. On top of that, while they’re in there, they’re being even more traumatized. Post-traumatic syndrome, it’s real. Trauma is real and what we see in some cases. There are individuals who were victims and traumatized while they were in juvenile facilities and they’ve been able to go on and live productive lives and still be able to maybe suppress the trauma that they’re in. But in other situations what we see is individuals have continued to repeat behaviors because the trauma has never been addressed. Then —

Mansa Musa:

Yeah.

LaRuby May:

— Go ahead. I’m sorry.

Mansa Musa:

No, go ahead, go ahead. You finish that thought.

LaRuby May:

We wonder why a brother that’s incarcerated at the age of 45 started getting incarcerated when he was younger — It’s because when you arrested him when he was 13 you didn’t do anything to help him or help his family. Other than, like you said, lock him up and put him in solitary confinement. You never helped him deal with the trauma. We see that trauma sometimes can lead to continued behavior that allows for them to, not only have been incarcerated as juveniles, but now to be incarcerated as an adult. And we look at him and he’s this or she’s that without the full context of the system helped to make them.

Mansa Musa:

Right, right. Created that, yeah.

LaRuby May:

Yeah, the system created that. That’s a part of the accountability that we want to hold for the system, that you not only allowed for these babies to be violated when they were children but then you allowed for this behavior to continue and that’s why we see some of our brothers and sisters still currently incarcerated.

Mansa Musa:

Okay. I want you to address two things.

LaRuby May:

Mm-hmm.

Mansa Musa:

Early in the system, they had the Department of Juvenile Services outsourced. So they might outsource foster care and they would have children in, in lieu of sending them to an institution, they would say, I’m going to send you here but you’re under the jurisdiction of the Department of Juveniles. Have you all identified that mechanism? And two, talk about why people should understand this issue, in terms of the importance of it. As you were talking, in my mind I’m saying, if we indicted the archdiocese so everybody can be like yeah… A lot of the folks that were violated, ethnicity is such that they got a little bit more prominence in that regard, and if you’re talking about poor people.

Talk about that why this issue should be given the same attention and get the same results as when people come out and talk about being victimized by the archdiocese. Talk about those two things if you can.

LaRuby May:

Okay. Say the first question first again.

Mansa Musa:

The first question deals with the Juvenile Department.

LaRuby May:

Oh, the facility.

Mansa Musa:

So, they had a situation where people got in that space said, we’ll become a foster parent, you can send them to us; Whatever the condition is, you send them to us and we’re getting paid for supervising them. Children have been abused in that system. And the other one is the archdiocese and how we look at it.

LaRuby May:

Okay, yeah. We haven’t specifically looked at individuals who were violated or abused while they were in foster care or while they were in the custody of the state of Maryland through Child Family Services or other services. I would believe if there was an individual who was… Many times, you are a ward of the state, you are in the custody of the state. If there was an employee or an adult that was affiliated with the state who violated a young person while they were in their care, we want to talk to that person as well, we want to talk to those people as well. But this lawsuit specifically focuses on individuals that were in the custody of a juvenile facility, of one of the 13 facilities that we’ve named in our complaint.

The other part about it is we understand money and we understand economy. We know people tend to care about people that other people care about, and people don’t care about Black folk and people don’t care about poor folk as much as they care about our white counterparts or our more affluent counterparts. But for us, that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve justice. In fact, for us that means that we need to fight even harder for you. Lots of attention, lots of resources around… Especially young boys who were altar boys in the Catholic Church, we saw a prevalence of white folk that were in that litigation.

But our Black and Brown brothers and sisters who were in juvenile facilities, guess what? Their mothers love them as much as those altar boys, their daddies love them as much as… We love our children as much as anybody else loves their children, so how dare a system not be sensitive and not consider a child just because you had an interface with the law. I’ve interacted with folks that, yup, he stole, yes, he went to juvenile but he was stealing because he was hungry.

Mansa Musa:

Right, right, right. It’s a social connection.

LaRuby May:

Yeah.

Mansa Musa:

It’s a social connection. Yeah, it is.

LaRuby May:

So, now he or she gets treated differently because he didn’t go to a church, because of his skin color, or because of where he lived in the neighborhood. For me, my law firm, and this litigation, that doesn’t work because that’s my niece, that’s my nephew, that’s my little cousin. To make sure that we’re fighting for justice for individuals who have formerly been incarcerated or may be currently incarcerated, to us, they deserve no less justice than anyone else. And we’re going to continue to fight for that justice and are looking for the opportunity to talk to more folks who were in the facilities.

Mansa, it’s important for me to let you and let your audience know that we do not use your name. Even in our lawsuit it’s listed as a John Doe or a Jane Doe because this is about holding accountability, this isn’t about trying to put people on blast. We recognize that folks are still going through trauma. We work to try to make sure clients get connected to mental health services to be able to deal with the trauma. Not only the trauma of the past, but when I ask you to talk about what happened to you 20 years ago, that’s going to trigger trauma again. To be able to make sure that we can provide or help you get connected to resources is an important part of the work that we do.

Mansa Musa:

All right. As we close out, tell our audience how they can get in touch with you if they a family member that knows somebody, or if they’re interested in trying to help you advocate, or get a copy of the litigation.

LaRuby May:

Oh, absolutely. If you want information as it relates to this, if you, a family member were violated or abused while you were in one of the juvenile facilities in the state of Maryland, you can give us a call. Our phone number is 1-833 May, M-A-Y-J-U-N-G, the name of our firm, May Jung, which is 1-833-629-5864. Again, that’s 1-833-629-5864. If you are a victim, if you know of a victim… And everything is held with us in complete confidentiality in terms of your talking to us and letting us know what happened to you. I work with many providers who are doing housing with our brothers and sisters who are returning citizens.

So if you’re an advocate or an activist working in the field, we want to talk and connect to you. Because the other thing that we realize is that we want to connect to people who are already connected to the folks that have been victims so that we can continue to leverage those trusting relationships. Again, 1-833-629-5864 is how you can get connected. My name is LaRuby and you can also email me; My email address is LaRuby, L-A-R-U-B-Y@M-A-Y-J-U-N-G.com, laruby@mayjung.com. Feel free to email me or to give us a call.

Mansa Musa:

Yeah. Thank you, LaRuby, for coming on Rattling the Bars. You definitely rattled the bar today. We want to emphasize this to our audience: We’re talking about our children. We’re talking about children. No matter what they look like today, 50 years old, they were a child when this happened to them and nobody has the right to abuse a child. Nobody has the right to take advantage of a child because they have the ability to. More importantly, when our children are taken into custody of Juvenile Services or any services, our children should be protected. We want to encourage everyone to reach out to LaRuby and the firm and educate yourself on this issue. But more importantly, we want you to continue to rattle the bars and continue to support real news. Thank you, LaRuby.

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Australian National Review – North Korea Releases New Song Celebrating ‘friendly Father’ Kim Jong-Un

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Key Points
  • A song celebrating Kim Jong-un and his leadership was performed at a ceremony in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
  • Titled Friendly Father, the song declares that North Korean people believe in Kim and will follow him “united”.
  • The song and its accompanying music video follow recent attempts to promote Kim’s cult of personality.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been celebrated as the nation’s “friendly father” in a new song broadcast on state television this week.
The song was first performed live to celebrate the opening of a new 10,000-home development in Pyongyang on Tuesday, which Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said was finished “at the highest level” within a 14-month period.
The housing completion ceremony featured a large-scale concert with jet flyovers and a live performance by some of the nation’s top singers, who unveiled the new song in tribute to North Korea’s supreme leader.

Titled Friendly Father, the track praises Kim for delivering a “brighter future” for North Korea and declares that “the people believe and will follow united”. An accompanying music video released on Wednesday shows workers, defence personnel and everyday citizens cheering, dancing and punching the air as they proclaim their love for Kim.

A man in a black leather jacket and dark trousers salutes as he walks down a red carpet past saluting soldiers in uniform

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting the Kim Jong-il University of Military and Politics in Pyongyang, North Korea last week in a photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Credit: KCNA/EPA

The song is the latest in a string of recent attempts to bolster Kim’s cult of personality. Between 2022 and 2023, Kim approved a series of large-scale murals showing him shovelling dirt, visiting a medical factory and surrounded by plants in a greenhouse.

In July 2023, a series of paintings showing Kim engaged in activities such as riding a horse, meeting with school children and standing atop North Korea’s “holy” Mount Paektu were unveiled at an art exhibition. Months later, in November, reports claimed that a song titled the Hymn of General Kim Jong-un had become the official song at state events.

“Our general is the wisest of 10 million,” the hymn proclaims. “Our general cultivates the best paradise with the power of love for our everlasting happiness. His name is General Kim Jong-un!”

Kim arrived at the housing completion ceremony on Tuesday in an armoured limousine gifted to him by Russian leader Vladimir Putin. He and his entourage of top officials sat atop a building during the ceremony, while the singers performed for him on an opposite rooftop.

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Australian National Review – Gympie Region People Set To Fight Massive Wind Farm Project At Curra Meeting – Www.cairnsnews.org

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PEOPLE in the Burnett, Bundaberg and Fraser Coast council areas are urged to attend a meeting at Curra this Saturday (April 20) to protest and plan a strategy against the Forest Wind Project which proposes to install 226 wind turbines between Maryborough and Gympie.

Meeting organisers say the turbines will run right through Australia’s largest exotic pine plantation.

The meeting is at the Curra Community Hall at 3pm. Guest speakers are Katy McCallum from the Kilkivan Action Group and Jim Willmott, chairman of Property Rights Australia.

“If you live in South Burnett, North Burnett, Bundy & Fraser Coast Regional Council areas it’s time to get informed and stand up,” organisers said. They are encouraged by the recent successful community opposition to a wind farm near Allora on the Southern Downs, plans for which have been dropped.

Wind Prospect Pty Ltd had been looking into the possible creation of a wind farm in the Goomburra district, east of Allora, but abandoned further action on the matter following a public meeting in Allora attended by about 300 people.

The Curra meeting organisers said the Forest Wind Project was just one of thousands of unreliable and environmentally unfriendly “renewable energy” projects bound for Queensland and Australia.

They say the Queensland Government, through their Wide Bay Burnett Regional Plan 2023, have conspired with Powerlink to compulsorily acquire, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, many acres of prime productive land in South and North Burnett.

“The majority of our regions are to be dedicated as Green Zones and will be littered with millions of solar panels, thousands of wind turbines, thousands of kilometres of transmission lines and battery storage facilities right through the guts of our region,” they said.

“This threatens the existence of every person and property (both rural and residential) plus our remarkable landscape and unique wildlife. We ask everyone from Gympie to Maryborough, Tin Can Bay, Cooloola Cove, Poona, Bauple, Gunalda and Glenwood to attend this very important meeting.”

Organisers said people would learn what the state government’s so-called “vision for our future” really looks like and the consequences it holds for towns, farms, families, businesses, local economy, environment and wildlife.

Attendees are asked to bring their own chair and tea, coffee and cake will be available for purchase with all proceeds going towards helping to pay the guest speakers’ travel costs. A gold coin donation will be taken at the door to cover hall hire costs. Curra is on the Bruce Highway 15 minutes north of Gympie.

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Australian National Review – Congressman Introduces Bill To Stop Cobalt Mined By Child Exploitation And Forced Labor From Entering US Market

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Cobalt is a key natural resource used to power electric vehicles, solar panels, and other purportedly “green” products. Around 90 percent of it originates from

New legislation has been introduced to stop cobalt, which is extracted or processed with the use of child or forced labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), from entering the U.S. market.

The legislation, HR 7891, was introduced on April 16 by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who is also the Chair of the House Global Human Rights Subcommittee.

Cobalt is a key natural resource used to power electric vehicles, solar panels, and other purportedly “green” products. Around 90 percent of it originates from CCP-owned mines in the DRC.

“The Communist Chinese government—which has gained almost full dominance of every single step of the cobalt supply chain—profits from child and forced labor used to extract cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo and power our so-called ‘green economy,’” according to an April 16 press release by Mr. Smith’s office.

Mr. Smith, who also serves as Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said that the United States must end child exploitation in mines and vastly reduce its dependency on the Chinese regime.

“The United States must stop aiding and abetting Communist China’s egregious exploitation of children—some as young as six years old—and start becoming less dependent on Xi Jinping’s brutal dictatorship,” said Mr. Smith.

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HR 7891—also known as the “Stop China’s Exploitation of Congolese Children and Adult Forced Labor through Cobalt Mining Act”—is specifically aimed at establishing the extent to which forced and child labor is utilized in the cobalt mining industry of the DRC, via a comprehensive investigation by the U.S. Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force.

Furthermore, it serves to implement new strategies to ensure that cobalt mined by forced labor does not enter the U.S. market.

Chairman Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) of the House Ways and Means Committee has offered extensive input on the proposed legislation. His committee, which has jurisdiction over it, is seeking to fast-track a vote on April 17.

“America has long fought to end child and adult forced labor, yet the cobalt vital to the batteries in our technology is unethically mined with the use of forced labor under Chinese control,” he said.

“This legislation is a critical step to blocking material tainted by these inhumane labor practices from entering this country. I am thankful to Rep. Chris Smith for introducing this legislation to stop these dangerous practices.”

The legislation was conceived partly from testimony provided at a congressional hearing in November last year, which Mr. Smith chaired. The hearing “exposed the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) egregious exploitation of Congolese children and forced laborers, who toil in hazardous conditions to extract cobalt from unsafe mines including artisanal mines in the DRC,” according to the April 16 press release.
Previous testimony provided at a hearing by Fr. Rigobert Minani Bihuzo, a Catholic priest from the DRC, provided a basis for November’s hearing.

“The number of artisanal and small-scale mining sites from the Ituri region to Lake Tanganyika is estimated to be 1,000 and the number of artisanal miners to be 200,000 people, among them thousands of children and pregnant women,” stated Mr. Bihuzo.

“The artisanal mines “are often no more than narrow shafts dug into the ground, which is why children are recruited—and in many cases forced—to descend into them, using only their hands or rudimentary tools without any protective equipment, to extract cobalt and other minerals,” according to Mr. Smith.

The congressman went on to state that those benefiting most from cobalt mining are also those who choose to remain silent on the issue and are unwilling to face the inconvenient truth that the entire cobalt industry is built on a system of extortion, cruelty, and corruption.

Mr. Smith has been an outspoken critic of the CCP’s inhumane approach to global trade, having previously authored the China Trade Relations Act (HR638), which stipulates that China must end its abominable human rights violations if it wishes to enjoy normal trade relations with the United States.

The CCP has been utilizing slave and forced labor not only abroad but also within its own boundaries.

For decades, the CCP has been imprisoning ethnic minority groups such as Uyghur Muslims, as well as persecuting House Christians and Falun Gong practitioners for their faiths. Many of the imprisoned end up in labor camps, where they are forced to work under dire conditions in excess of 15 hours a day.

Many adherents of Falun Gong, a peaceful spiritual practice that promotes Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance, have also been subjected to torture and live organ harvesting for the purposes of profit by the CCP.

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