Slavery, Today… In Washington, DC

If you belive slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment in the United States…

You are wrong.

Slavery exists today in the United States… Right in the shadow of the Capital Dome.

Foreign Diplomats are protected from prosecution, under Diplomatic Immunity protocols. Occasionally, this has resulted in severe abuses of American laws.

Embassy Row is Located on Massachusetts Avenue In DC, and is the location of over a dozen foreign Embassies located either directly on Mass Ave or the adjacent side streets (above).

Trafficking Report: No Mention of Diplomats in D.C. with Slaves?

In Washington on Monday morning, June 14, Hillary Clinton unveiled the State Department’s 10th annualreport on modern-day slavery, which evaluates the efforts of every nation to combat the crime. For the first time, State ranked the antislavery efforts of the U.S. alongside those of 174 other countries. The U.S. rated itself as being in full compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). But the report appears to have ignored a new congressional mandate to identify specific cases of countries whose diplomats allegedly harbored slaves within a few miles of Clinton’s remarks – even though it indicates that such cases exist.

The congressional mandate was prompted in part by the abuses of a Tanzanian diplomat named Alan Mzengi, who was minister of consular affairs at his country’s embassy in Washington. In a January 2008 ruling, a U.S. district court judge found that Mzengi and his wife forced a 20-year-old woman named Zipora Mazengo into domestic slavery in their six-bedroom Bethesda, Md., home. In her April 2007 lawsuit against the couple, Mazengo, by then 27, said that as soon as she arrived from Tanzania in June 2000, the diplomat confiscated her passport and her employment contract. For the next four years, Mazengo said, the Mzengis forced her to perform domestic work 112 hours per week for no pay. At night she shared a room with the Mzengis’ infant, one of three children under her responsibility. (See a summary of the 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report.)

She claimed that the diplomat taunted her, his wife beat her, and both forbade her from leaving the home unaccompanied – even when her sister was dying in Tanzania. Mazengo’s ingrown toenails festered to the point where she could no longer wear shoes, yet the Mzengis denied her medical treatment for two years and forced her to shovel snow barefoot. When they finally allowed her emergency surgery, they ignored her doctor’s orders and put her back to work the same day. Finally, in August 2004, Mazengo escaped with help from a customer of the Mzengis’ side business, a catering service. (See South Africa’s struggle to address a new slave trade.)

Mzengi’s abuses outraged the late Congressman Tom Lantos, a California Democrat who himself was a survivor of forced labor as a young man. In 2007 he demanded that the Tanzanian diplomat “be kicked out of the country” by the State Department. Shortly thereafter, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) faulted State’s insufficient response to some 42 domestic workers who between 2000 and 2008 had accused foreign diplomats of abuse on U.S. soil. The number of unknown cases, the GAO found, was likely much higher. The 1961 Vienna Convention shields diplomats and their families from many types of prosecution by their host countries, and some diplomats have used that status to intimidate their servants into silence about abuses. Continue reading

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