Last week, the Defending Freedoms project launched a Week of Action in which U.S. Representatives nationwide spoke out to highlight and give voice to political prisoners being held or detained around the world for expressing their views.
Members of Congress “adopted” prisoners of conscience and stood in solidarity with them with a commitment to highlight their cases and push for their release, as well as for an end to the human rights abuses they had been subjected to.
These individuals have been imprisoned because of who they are, what they believe, and how they have chosen to express their convictions. As a result, they are prevented from enjoying the most fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
The Defending Freedoms project was kick-started by Representatives Wolf and McGovern adopting the initiative’s first two prisoners of conscience – Gao Zhisheng of China and Bahrain’s Nabeel Rajab. In late 2012, Congress’ nonpartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) joined the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International USA to create the Defending Freedoms initiative as a way to raise awareness and support for human rights and religious freedom by focusing on human rights defenders, political prisoners, and those who have been unjustly imprisoned around the world.
Members who participated in the Action Week included TLHRC co-chairs U.S. Representatives Frank Wolf and Jim McGovern, and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, Trent Franks, Alan Grayson, Randy Hultgren, Hank Johnson, Lynn Jenkins, Alan Lowenthal, Jim Moran, Joe Pitts and Jan Schakowsky. Activities members undertook included statements for the record, social media engagement and one-minute floor speeches, among other actions.
Help U.S. Representatives protect human rights worldwide and take action on behalf of current prisoners of conscience by joining Amnesty International’s Urgent Action Network. Click here to view the latest Urgent Actions.