A new leader is taking charge at the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking (J/TIP).
Susan Coppedge was nominated to the post earlier this year by President Obama and was confirmed by the Senate last week.
With the rank of ambassador-at-large she will lead America’s global engagement against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Coppedge is a career Justice Dept. prosecutor, currently based as an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta. News reports of her confirmation hearing highlight how she stressed the importance of prosecuting traffickers:
Coppedge told the committee that she has been “dedicated to the fight against human trafficking for 14 years” and tried her first human trafficking case in 2002, which ended with the convictions of 13 people who had victimized teenagers by forcing them into prostitution. Coppedge said that since then she has secured the indictments of 49 traffickers, involving both U.S. and foreign-born children and young women. She said she has also partnered with nonprofit organizations and concerned citizens who helped victims to find safe housing, finish school or apply for U.S. visas.
Said Coppedge, “It has meant educating jurors and judges that modern slavery often does not involve locks on the doors or victims who come forward, but more subtle forms of exploitation and coercion that cause victims to be deprived of their freedom, their ability to say, ‘No, I don’t want to do this.'”
Coppedge also said that she has trained law enforcement personnel about the nature of human trafficking in Argentina, New Zealand and Thailand and worked with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to develop a database for tracking human trafficking prosecutions.
“The message I always seek to deliver, whether to foreign governments or to the Rotary Club,” she said, “is that human trafficking cases are some of the most important cases that governments can undertake; these cases restore the individuals to the freedom and liberty to which we are all entitled.”
Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg welcomes the selection of Coppedge.
Free the Slaves is delighted to see the confirmation of Susan Coppedge as the new ambassador leading the Trafficking in Person Office. She brings a distinguished record of public service, a wealth of relevant experience and an obvious commitment to fighting the scourge of human trafficking. The TIP Office needs strong, capable leadership and we look forward to working with Ambassador Coppedge in advancing shared goals.
The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a policy coalition of leading anti-slavery organizations that includes Free the slaves, applauds Coppedge’s confirmation:
“We are excited to finally have Ambassador Coppedge, who joins the State Department at a pivotal time for human trafficking,” said ATEST Director Melysa Sperber. “This confirmation comes at a critical moment. Due to widespread criticism of the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Person’s Report (produced by the J/TIP office), the ambassador will need to work to improve the State Department’s reputation in combating human trafficking around the world. The report’s credibility was questioned following the unjustified upgrades of several key countries including Malaysia, Cuba and Uzbekistan. At the time of the report’s release, the J/TIP office was without a confirmed ambassador.
“Ambassador Coppedge has the knowledge of how to hold traffickers to account and is capable of meeting the challenges that will start from day one,” said Sperber. “We look forward to working with her to ensure the U.S. government continues its comprehensive approach that includes prevention and protection efforts that address sex and labor trafficking of both children and adults.”